Polk parents plan rally against masks in schools, others warn against making changes

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Some Polk County parents are planning a rally against masks in schools while some school officials say they’re the only things keeping schools open right now.

“It’s alarming to me that this is what we’re mandating in our schools,” said Hannah Petersen, a mother of four students in Polk County public and charter schools.

She recently stopped by her son’s elementary school and saw children playing sports outside wearing masks.

The sight upset her.

“I needed to know if there’s other parents out there that are concerned about this as well because our voices are being silenced. We’re not allowed in the school anymore,” she said.

Petersen believes it is time for students to be able to take off their masks in the classroom.

Recently, her efforts to gather support from other Polk County parents have been taken down from change.org and Facebook, she said.

She’s moved to a private group where she is planning a rally for the next Polk County school board meeting on April 27.

“We started this group 17 hours ago and we’ve got 3,000 members,” she said.

Members have also been given time to present to the school board from inside the meeting, she and her husband said.

“We’re not going to tolerate this anymore. We want to have a choice. We need to have a choice to wear a mask or not,” said Sean Petersen.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wear masks while outside the home.

“When you wear a mask, you protect others as well as yourself,” a recommendation from the CDC reads.

“Right now is not the time to be reversing any safety protocols,” said Stephanie Yocum, president of the Polk County Education Association.

Yocum believes masks are an important safety measure that is keeping kids in school right now.

“I don’t like wearing a mask,” she said. “Nobody likes wearing a mask. We all want things to go back to some sense of normalcy but in order to do that we have to keep these protocols in place for the time being.”

School board member Sarah Fortney says under no circumstances would she vote to end the mask policy this school year.

“Science is real,” she said. “I remind those same people that are coming – it is a pandemic.”

The rally is scheduled for the April 27 school board meeting at the Jim Miles Professional Development Center in Lakeland.

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