Cabell school board votes against requiring masks

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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UPDATE 8/19/21 @ 11 p.m.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A large crowd packed an emergency meeting Thursday evening at the Cabell County Board of Education, where the issue of whether to adopt a mask mandate for students and staff was on the agenda.

Board members voted 3-2 to stick with their current plan and not require masks.

Mary Neely, Skip Parsons, and Alyssa Bond voted against the mandate. Bishop Charles Shaw and Rhonda Smalley voted in favor of it.

“The parents that don’t want to put the mask on their children, that is their prerogative,” Neely said. “That is their constitutional right.”

“I would never ever as a board member put a child at risk when all the medical opinions from the CDC to the local health department to every other entity that exists around in this county tells us masking our children is the best way to minimize them catching COVID,” Shaw said.

Parents on both sides of the issue addressed the board for about an hour and a half before the vote. The majority spoke against the mask mandate, saying parents should have the option to decide if their children should wear a mask to school.

Superintendent Ryan Saxe presented two options to the board after public comment: stick with the current plan of no mask requirement or require masks for kindergarteners through seniors starting Friday.

Those against the mandate cheered loudly following the vote.

“I knew we won, and I jumped up,” Misty Turman, who has two children who go to Cabell Midland, said. “I had to stand up and clap. I’m super excited this went our way. I’ve been stressed out all day, but I’m so happy our kids can go to school and show their faces.”

Saxe says the board’s decision goes against the recommendation of their chief health officer and the health department.

Under the mask mandate option that was voted down, if Cabell County had stayed green or yellow on the color map five days in a row, masks would’ve no longer been required, Saxe said.

The district is still encouraging all students to wear masks to school, but it is the parents’ choice.

During the public comment period, Dr. Tyler Clay, a professor of infectious diseases at Marshall University’s pharmacy school, asked the board to require masks.

“I want you to know that again our hospitals are filling up,” Clay said. “Again, our ICU beds are filling up. Again, our ERs are overrun. This is a simple decision. This decision is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s backed by the CDC. It’s backed by every healthcare agency in the state.”

Tuesday night, the night before the first day of school in Cabell County, close to a dozen parents spoke out in favor of requiring masks at schools, urging the board to rethink their position.

Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Department of Education have said they’re leaving decisions about masks to the local level.


CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Masks will not be required in Cabell County Schools.

The school board voted 3-2 Thursday evening not to require face coverings, deciding to stick with their original plan. Board members Mary Neely, Skip Parsons, and Alyssa Bond voted against the mask mandate. Rhonda Smalley and Bishop Charles Shaw voted for the mask mandate.

Dozens of concerned parents packed the emergency meeting, which was called earlier this week after parents voiced their concerns.

Cabell County BOE calls emergency meeting regarding masks

We have a crew at the meeting and will have more on this developing story.

Keep checking the WSAZ app for the latest information.

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