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Some families choosing to homeschool or change school districts because of optional mask guidelines

Many parents are pushing for mask guidelines to be optional for families.
Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - In a few short weeks, kids will go back to school. The big question for many families is - will this year feel like a “normal” school year?

Part of that equation is masks.

Many parents are pushing for mask guidelines to be optional for families. Union County Public Schools and Rowan County Public schools decided that masks will be optional for both staff and students come this fall.

Other school districts, like Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, are waiting for guidelines from the state.

But some families who live where masks are becoming optional in schools are having to make the tough choices, especially if their kids have medical conditions.

Some parents tell WBTV News they don’t feel comfortable sending their kids who have medical conditions to school where masks are optional until their kids are able to get vaccinated. Because of that, many are making tough choices like moving counties or even leaving their jobs so they can homeschool.

“He will be safer in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools than he will be in Union County,” said Samantha Shillingburg, whose son is 4.

That’s one mom’s opinion. But it’s a strong one.

Samantha Shillingburg feels this way because of Union County’s recent decision to make masks optional this upcoming school year.

MORE: Union County school board votes for optional mask-wearing for students and staff

Shillingburg’s son, Princeton, will start pre-school in CMS. His mom is extra careful because he has a condition where he doesn’t produce antibodies to fight off infections. That’s why Shillingburg moved from Union County to Mecklenburg County.

“It’s evident that CMS is making much stronger and maybe even controversial decisions to protect the children,” she thinks. “It would cause anxiety daily to be surrounded by children who could potentially kill him.”

CMS, as of now, will follow state guidelines that currently require masks in schools.

“People are making decisions to protect children are the number one priority for us. That’s our goal for us to protect our child and if someone else is taking that into our hands and making sure it’s serious for them. That’s where we want to be. We want an ally for our child.”

A Union County spokesperson says the board’s decision for making masks optional isn’t changing. But they will work with families who have children with medical conditions. But that’s still not enough for some families.

“People are saying I’m going to have to quit my job, I’m going to have to take leave to home school if the masks aren’t in place until vaccinations are available for the underage crowd,” said Elena Brown, who WBTV interviewed last week before the Union County Board of Education meeting.

She tells WBTV News she’s taking leave from her Union County teaching job to homeschool her son who has asthma until he’s able to get vaccinated.

“Just another couple months of masks. I think that’s really reasonable to allow all of our kids back into the building,” she said.

Governor Cooper said Secretary Cohen and the rest of the state health team are currently reviewing CDC guidelines and plan to update state guidelines on how to reopen schools safely this August.

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