[Update: If you are in a school district where they are mandating masks for under 12s (or older), send a letter or email or call supporting that decision. Because they’re hearing from crazy people right now and could use some support. See comments for one school committee member’s plea.]
I am extremely worried about my unable-to-be-vaccinated middle-schooler going to in-person school in a few weeks. After a couple of weeks with unusually low numbers of new cases, we’re back to creeping up from orange territory even though the college students aren’t back yet. We’re not in red or purple yet, but we didn’t have case counts this high this time last year and they exploded deep into purple two weeks after the university started back up.
Last year the 5/6 middle-school that DC2 will be going to had low numbers of case counts with masking and social distancing in place (comparatively). Not so all of the schools (overall 6% of students in our district were out of school for covid reasons and 17% of staff were and the other middle schools had higher numbers than ours). And, indeed, the big difference I could see between the high school we’re zoned for which had the largest numbers of case counts compared to the other high school in our area that had much lower case counts (almost 2x, even though the student body sizes are similar), was that the principal of our high school would send out group photos of kids with most of them unmasked and the other high school’s principal didn’t. I suspect that’s correlated with whether or not the mask mandate was actually enforced. The circumstantial evidence suggests that masking and being careful about social distancing leads to less transmission. And, despite what crazy anti-maskers say, that circumstantial evidence is backed up by actual science.
This year there won’t be a virtual school option. And, because case counts at DC2’s upcoming middle-school were so low and spread out last year, we didn’t think we needed one.
But then our state government said that state-run schools (including K-12 and including the university) are not allowed to have mask mandates.
And then all the news saying kids under 12 would get a vaccine in the fall switched to saying, just kidding, approval won’t happen until winter.
Middle school is a time of strong peer pressure. If the school can’t have a mask mandate, then people will assume they don’t need to wear masks. If enough people don’t wear masks, then kids on the margin will stop wearing masks. Kids who do wear masks will be made to feel uncomfortable until they, too, unmask. Heck, I went into work this summer and wore a mask and felt uncomfortable about it AND the secretaries were kind of rude to me, and I’m an adult with a PhD. (My plan is to wear masks in hallways etc. so other people feel more comfortable doing so, and only take my mask off in rooms if I know that everyone else in the room is vaccinated. At least until DC2 gets the vaccine.)
I am really worried. Yes, I know my kid is 9 and probably won’t get major complications. But I also didn’t eat cold coldcuts during pregnancy. Some 9 year olds are going to get major complications. Masking seems to be the same kind of cost-benefit analysis as microwaving my coldcuts, and if we’re looking at this from an epidemiological viewpoint it will *save lives*, not just of infected under-12s but also all the people they come into contact with. And if you don’t care about the lives of the unvaccinated, masking in schools will also lower morbidity of the vaccinated who still catch covid.
On top of that, kids are growing and losing a sense of taste seems like it could have overall effects on say, growth.
We don’t have to be silent about these worries. We don’t have to take them as given. We can complain. There’s still time for a last minute exemption. Once one ultra-conservative governor flips, the rest will too (especially if the FL governor makes a switch) because they’re all idiot copy-cats. Worried “soccer moms” (or just parents in general) are still considered to be a voting bloc.
Who do you call? You can find your elected officials here. If you have state legislators or state representatives, that’s a great place to start. You can also call your state governor, especially if he’s eliminated the ability for K-12 schools to have mask mandates by fiat/executive order rather than it going through the legislative process.
If you’re brave, call during business hours. If you’re like me, call after hours or in the wee hours of the morning and leave a message.
It doesn’t really matter if you ramble or if you have a perfectly crafted statement that you read out. I tend to do both– I need the statement to start with because I’m so bad on the phone.
Hello, my name is [Firstname, Husband’s last name]. I’m calling from [City, Zipcode] where I am a constituent. I’m calling to request that school districts be allowed autonomy regarding mask mandates, particularly for schools that have kids under 12 who cannot be vaccinated. I have a  year old who is unable to be vaccinated and I am incredibly worried. Last year with masking and social distancing, 6% of the student body and 17% of staff got covid. Without masks, those numbers will be much higher for the unvaccinated population, which includes my [daughter/son]. I am very worried about her/him catching covid, especially with this new Delta variant which is more contagious. Even if (s)he doesn’t get very sick, (s)he could still lose his/her sense of smell which might affect her/his growth. Also, last year, because of masking, the school was able to not quarantine entire classes if someone got sick. Now the choice is either to let covid run rampant or to quarantine the class every time a kid gets sick, which will be very disruptive to their learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics [and just now the CDC] just came out with a statement recommending masking in K-12 schools and the FDA just said kids under 12 won’t be able to be vaccinated until winter. Please remove the order prohibiting schools from requiring masks so that school districts can make decisions based on the covid numbers in their area and healthcare recommendations. Again, I’m calling from [City, Zipcode].
After that I had some worried rambling. Because I am extremely worried.
If you don’t want to call, it is better to email than to do nothing.
If you’re super awesome, write a letter to the editor of your local paper about the problem. I’m not that awesome, but I did call.
You can also call or email your school super-independent to ask what they intend to do and encourage them to lobby the department of education to lobby the state government. I don’t know what is going on behind the scenes, but I am sure that being able to say that they have frantic/worried parents of kids under 12 can only help these decisions. DH has that on his list to do this coming week because he’s a hero. (He also called our elected officials last week.)
Are you worried about school starting in your area? What’s your state’s situation in terms of masking in public schools? Do you also feel like nobody cares about or even remembers kids under age 12?