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Parents voice opinions on masks at school board meeting in Danville

The board voted to allow students who are in quarantine, but symptom-free, to return to school Tuesday, but masks are still optional.

DANVILLE, Ind. — Danville High School students won't be having a homecoming dance this year because of concerns about COVID-19.  

School administrators made the decision to cancel the event.  

Monday, parents lined up to voice their opinions to the school board on masks and quarantining. 

"Two simple words: 'Trust me,'" one mother stood up and told the school board of the Danville Community School Corporation. 

One by one, parents of students in Danville schools expressed the same sentiment, asked the school board to trust them when it came to masking their kids this school year. Unlike last year when masking was a requirement, this year, it's been optional. 

"Masks, vaccines and, frankly, quarantining a healthy child is a parent's decision, not a school board decision, not a health department decision," said David Winters.  

"Trust me to tell you that my child does not do well in a mask. She came home every day last year with a headache, hating school," Leanne Smith told the school board. 

Others were concerned about students being forced to stay at home because they were exposed to someone at school who tested positive for COVID-19. 

"Our children need to be in school. It's your job to make sure our children are able to go to school when they are well," said mother Jill Riggs.

RELATED: Gov. Holcomb gives schools incentives to require masks

As of last Thursday, according to statistics provided by the school corporation, 266 students and staff in Danville schools were under quarantine. 

Those exposed to someone who has tested positive for the virus are required to stay home if they've come within three feet of that person. Students who are vaccinated are not required to quarantine. 

"Of all the concerns I heard tonight, we're most concerned about having a mask and quarantining. We could eliminate one of those things and have kids in school if we were masking," Caroline Harris, a family nurse practitioner told the school board. 

RELATED: Dept. of Education offers funding for schools punished by states for mask mandates

Some, like Harris, also spoke in favor of masks, including parent Matt McClure whose daughter is staying home and doing online schooling because she's too young for the vaccine. 

"We are for masks, but everybody has to make their own decision," said McClure, adding that he preferred last year when masks were required. 

One mom, who's also a nurse, agreed masks are the way to keep students like McClure's daughter in school and healthy. 

"No, it's not perfect," Melissa Otstott said to those gathered. "Nobody likes them. We hate them, but it's keeping us healthy. If I can swab thousands of COVID patients and not get COVID at work, my mask does something. It truly does."

The majority of parents at Monday's meeting, though, said the decision to mask should be up to them. 

"Trust me to parent my children," said Leanne Smith. 

Later in the meeting, the school board voted 3-2 to allow students who are under quarantine, but not showing symptoms of COVID-19, to return to school on Tuesday. Athletes who are under quarantine, but also symptom-free, will be able to play sports. 

Wearing a mask in school is still optional.