(Originally published Aug. 9)By Jeff Wagner

WACONIA, Minn. (WCCO) — Parents passionate against forcing their kids to wear a mask in school had their voices heard Monday night in the southwest metro.

The school board for Waconia Public Schools voted 6-0 in favor of its current policy, which will only make masks optional for students and staff. But some families feel the decision puts their kids at risk of getting sick.

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The school board recognizes that COVID-19 is an ever evolving situation. However, Monday night’s vote ensures students won’t have to wear a mask on the first day.

Wall to wall and down the hall families were overflowing from a typically sparse Waconia School Board meeting Monday with the topic of a potential mask mandate clearly causing the packed house.

(credit: CBS)

“I urge you to vote to make masks optional,” one parent said.

Applause regularly followed those speaking against a mandate, as parents cited concerns about their children struggling to communicate and dealing with mental health issues from wearing masks over the previous school year.

“We need to stand up as a community and start making decisions that are evidence based and important for our children’s safety and well-being,” an anti-mask parent said. “This does not include sending them to their learning and social environment wearing a face covering for seven to eight hours a day.”

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“For those parents who think it’s in their child’s best interest to wear a mask, despite the very low transmission rate, online learning is their best option,” another parent said.

Nicole Skaro is one of those parents who will start her children at home, since they’re immunocompromised.

“You need some sort of mask policy to reintegrate special needs at the end of the day,” Skaro said.

Rather than a full mandate, she feels there could be a middle ground.

“If we have either a part of a building, a building, a floor that has a mask mandate, then they can return to school right now,” she said.

One of the few parents actually wearing a mask at the meeting said the proof of why masks are needed can be seen across the country.

“In Arkansas, they already went back to school. They didn’t require masks. And they’re seeing extreme COVID breakouts,” the parent said. “That could reasonably happen here as well.”

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The board did acknowledge that if the state decides to mandate masks in schools, it will follow suit.

Jeff Wagner