December 5, 2021

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Schools the latest battleground in fight over mandatory masks

In Illinois, where the governor is suing to mandate face coverings in schools, at least one private school says it still wants to leave it up to the parents.

Parkview Christian Academy in Yorkville, Illinois, says it plans to welcome students back full-time this upcoming semester — with masks optional and entirely up to the individual family.

“This is not a political thing for us,” said Jed Davis, president of Parkview Christian’s school board.

MORE: Utah public hearing on schools dismissed after angry parents pack room without masks

“We’re not trying to politicize masks by any means. Again, we’re not anti-mask, we’re pro-choice,” Davis told ABC News in a phone interview.

As a debate rages across the country over mandatory face coverings, schools are quickly becoming the latest battleground in the fight over whether to mask up. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection recommends that both teachers and children over the age of 2 wear masks in school and maintain 6 feet of social distance to prevent the spread of the virus. The CDC says it’s planning to release additional guidance documents by the end of the month, after President Donald Trump criticized its initial recommendations as too tough and expensive.

PHOTO: Social distancing dividers for students are seen in a classroom at St. Benedict School, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Montebello, near Los Angeles, California, July 14, 2020. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

On Thursday, Illinois Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker, along with the state health director and the state superintendent, filed a lawsuit against Parkview Christian and two other schools, aimed at enforcing a face covering mandate in schools.

“As a father, I would not send my children to a school where face coverings are not required because the science is clear: face coverings are critical to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Pritzker said in a statement.

“From the CDC to the American Academy of Pediatrics, doctors and epidemiologists agree that in order to bring large groups of people together, especially indoors, a face covering is needed to stop the spread. As school districts finalize their fall operations plans, it is imperative that they understand these clear evidence-based requirements to wear face coverings need to be followed to keep our children, teachers and communities healthy and safe,” he added.

But Davis says the school will maintain a safe environment for the students, and argues that a “one-size-fits-all” solution for all schools across the state isn’t practical.

The debate over whether face coverings should be mandatory is taking place across the country. Earlier this week, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit prohibiting localities from implementing face mask requirements, and in Utah, several parents spoke out against mandatory face masks in schools, ABC News previously reported.

PHOTO: Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, science teachers Ann Darby, left, and Rosa Herrera check-in students before a summer STEM camp at Wylie High School, July 14, 2020, in Wylie, Texas. (Lm Otero/L.M. Otero/AP)

In Utah on Wednesday, unmasked parents filled up a room and reportedly did not adhere to distancing guidelines to voice outrage against a mask requirement in the state for children in school. The meeting had to be adjourned for safety reasons.

However, as COVID-19 cases in the United States continue to tick upward, officials have repeatedly said the use of masks could help curb the spread of the virus.

“If everyone in his nation would just take on a face covering, practice excellent hand hygiene and be smart about their distancing in crowds, we can bring this outbreak to its knees in two, four, six, eight weeks,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said.

PHOTO: Keith Boyd a former special education teacher who is volunteering at Bernard Harris Elementary School to help with summer school, takes the temperature of Kennedy Harris, a second grader, before she can enter the school. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun/TNS/Newscom)

Meanwhile, the debate is taking place as teachers and parents across the country continue to voice concern about schools reopening at all.

Some teachers say they worry about their own health and the health of family members.

Amy Hawkins, a teacher in Volusia County, Florida, told ABC News that she is immunocompromised and said at the beginning of the pandemic, she had a conversation with her nurse that “essentially ended with the idea that if I contract COVID, it will probably kill me,” the mother of two said.

MORE: Teachers worry about return to classroom amid surges in COVID-19 cases

She said it’s still undecided whether masks will be mandated for her school system — some school board members, she said, feel it should be left up to the individual and families.

“Dealing with your mortality at this stage is very difficult,” she told ABC News, also noting that she is currently writing her will for the first time.

Hawkins said she is not sending her two children back to school, “but I still have to go because it’s either that, or I can’t pay the electric bill.”

“I’m literally having to choose between continuing to ensure the best education for the children of my community or risking a very reasonable possibility of death,” she said.

ABC News’ Ivan Pereira contributed to this report.

Schools the latest battleground in fight over mandatory masks originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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