‘I was very disappointed,’ Blount County parent says after new school mask mandate

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Blount County parents are on the fence about the new mask mandate the district implemented Monday.

The mask mandate went into effect on Tuesday.

One family member waiting in line to pick up their nephew said the kids in her household have been wearing masks since day one. In fact, she said, the kids were more adamant about wearing masks than the adults were.

She said the mandate didn’t seem new, because she said all the other kids at her family’s school wear masks, and visitors were asked to wear them as well if they had to go inside.

She thought it was always a mandate.

A grandparent waiting in the same pickup line said her grandkids actually like wearing masks because they look “cool.” She also said they always wore theirs at school.

However, one mom — whose children just recently switched to in-person learning from virtual learning — said she was upset about the new mandate, and it came as a surprise.

“They made this decision so abruptly and so randomly out of the blue, it threw me off. But then, again, I was very disappointed in the fact that it should’ve been the parents decision whether or not, you know, it was a mandated thing,” Krista Teaster said.

Teaster has four kids in the BCS district. One of her children has special needs and has trouble keeping a mask on. Teaster was relieved to know the mandate wouldn’t necessarily effect that daughter.

One of her other daughters has bad allergies and feels uncomfortable wearing a mask.

“My main concern, you know, is them not being able to breathe good. Like I said, my daughter sneezes, you know, even on her allergy medicine, sneezes 10 to 15 times a day. So, if she sneezes in her mask, then her mask is useless,” Teaster said,

She said she knows no one really likes wearing a mask, but if her children tell her they have a hard time breathing with them on, she’s not going to force her kids to wear it.

It’s not like it would be easy for Teaster to simply have her kids learn from home to get around the mask issue either.

Her family tried that for several weeks, but four kids learning at home, with one of them having special needs, she said they weren’t getting they weren’t learning to their full extent.

“I want them to go to school and I want them to enjoy it, because this is the best years of their life,” Teaster said. When her kids went back to school in person, they were first told to wear the masks.

“It was something that they strongly suggested that we wear, or that they wear their masks, and I strongly disagreed with that and wrote a note that my children would not be wearing masks,” Teaster said.

She said she didn’t agree with the possible disciplinary action either, especially if not wearing a mask was a choice they made as a family. That’s why she didn’t have her kids at school on Tuesday.

They needed to figure out what is best for their family — virtual or in person with the possibly of getting sent to the principal’s office.

According to an alert parents received on their school app, that could be a result of not wearing a mask.

It said that “any student not wearing a mask would be given one; if a student refuses to wear a face covering, they will be referred to the office; (and) blatant defiance will be addressed through the Board of Education policy.”

Teaster hopes the school board will change their mind in the end, and leave the decision to wear masks up to the family.

“I’m thinking about my child only. And of course, I don’t want anybody to have to go through COVID or suffer, you know, anything hurtful. But, I can’t think about everyone else’s kids over my own,” Teaster said.

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