Group of Vestavia Hills parents concerned over response to encouraging masks

School leaders say masks are strongly encouraged in Vestavia Hills, but one parent says it's...
School leaders say masks are strongly encouraged in Vestavia Hills, but one parent says it's not being enforced.
Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:40 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 8:13 PM CDT
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VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WBRC) - A group of parents and health care professionals in Vestavia Hills are concerned school leaders are not enforcing the fact that masks are strongly recommended for students and faculty in the school system.

On August 17, the group responded to the Vestavia Hills Board of Education’s statement from August 13 that explained why the school board was not instituting a mask mandate. In the group’s response, they explained their position on why they believe a mask mandate is necessary.

You can read the board’s statement HERE:

You can read the group’s response HERE:

One parent spoke to WBRC anonymously about some of these issues. Her specific concern was that she was not reassured that school leaders would encourage the “strongly recommended” guideline for students and staff to wear masks. Even though it’s not a mandate, she wanted to know how school leaders would encourage or incentivize students to wear a mask.

The parent reached out to her child’s principal and the superintendent with these concerns. The parent said the email response from the superintendent was “thank you for sharing.”

The parent says she was able to have a phone call with the principal, which she recorded and shared with WBRC.

Here is a snippet of that recorded conversation:

Parent: And again the school’s not going to reinforce the strong recommendation to wear a mask in any way with the children or the faculty?

Principal: That’s correct.

Parent: So they will not be encouraging the strong recommendation?

Principal: No, because at that point the verbiage is they’re strongly recommending, it’s in the plan that’s discussed at home with family, but it is not advised for us to enforce or police that.

The parent said she asked if the school leaders could put up posters that encourage mask wearing, hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer. She also asked if after a few weeks her child could be moved into a classroom where a majority of the children are wearing masks.

The parent said the principal told her that wouldn’t be possible.

“I think for me and a lot of families it’s been so deflating that your faith in your school system for keeping your kid safe, it’s just left,” said the parent.

I sent the text of the phone call to the director of public relations for the school system, Whitt McGhee. He provided this response to WBRC, “After reviewing your message with our team here, it appears that the wording of the conversation you’ve shared largely mirrors that of our operations plan regarding the use of face masks. I’ve attached a screenshot of the relevant section, and a link to the full plan is available here.

“Our superintendent provided some additional clarification to parents this past week about the encouragement and incentive for students and staff to wear masks in schools. That message was shared directly with all of our families and is also available on our website.”

In the superintendent’s update from August 11th, it notes one incentive for students to wear masks is they won’t have to quarantine for 10 days if they’re a close contact with someone who is Covid positive.

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