‘It’s about the science’: Parents push for Iredell-Statesville Schools to mandate masks

IREDELL COUNTY, N.C. — Monday is a big day for several North Carolina school districts as students return to the classroom, and many of them will be mask-optional.

That’s despite rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state. On Friday, hospitalizations hit the highest point since January, with 3,147 people in hospitals.

Not all parents are on board with the current mask policies ahead of the first day.

Those who are in favor of the choice have made the loudest noise at school board meetings across our area. But in Iredell County, that may be about to change.

At Lake Norman Elementary, there is a sign outside welcoming students back to class. And students will have the option of wearing a mask to protect themselves from COVID-19 or go without one. It’s all up to the parents.

But now, there’s a new group of parents that has entered the picture. They are calling for the school board to join a number of other boards in the area and go back to a mask mandate.

Rachel Whitmore organized the group, and she said it’s time for her side to be heard.

“They say that those who have the least to say are usually the loudest. Well, it turns out, now people with the most to say are going to have to be even louder because that’s the only way we’re going to be able to protect these kids,” she said.

Devorah Popolizio is also a member of the new group pushing mask mandates in Iredell County. She said she got involved because her mother died from COVID-19 and said her daughter, a 13-year-old middle schooler, is scared.

“It’s not about feelings. It’s about the science of COVID and what’s happening right now with the numbers,” Popolizio said. “It’s terrifying after losing her grandmother. It’s devastating to her that people aren’t taking this seriously.”

The Facebook group has only been up and running for a few days, and organizers said they already have 200 members. The group said that since the county is in red, it’s critical for the board to reinstate a mandate right away.

Other than Iredell-Statesville Schools, 10 other districts in our area will return to the classroom Monday, including Union, Gaston, Cabarrus, Anson, Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba and Lincoln counties, as well as Newton-Conover City Schools.

(WATCH BELOW: CDC recommends masks be worn in schools regardless of vaccination status)