An angry resident walked up to the podium and threw a stack of papers at a Chardon Board of Education member Wednesday before a vote was taken on a districtwide mask requirement.

The meeting room was packed as community members lined up to voice their objections and support for the policy.

The resolution requiring masks was approved by a 3-2 vote with Karen Blankenship and Paul Stefanko voting against and Keith Brewster, Guy Wilson and Madelon Horvath voting in favor. The new rule requires the use of face coverings for all employees and students in all district buildings, as well as for all visitors, volunteers and vendors in all district buildings regardless of grade level.

“Our priority is to keep schools open and to have students experiencing in-person instruction five days per week,” said Superintendent Michael P. Hanlon.

During an Aug. 16 board meeting, the resolution related to masking was removed from the agenda so case data could be reviewed prior to making any decision on masking. At that time, the board agreed to let parents decide whether their children should wear a mask in school until the data could be reviewed.

“The Board of Education was very clear at the time the initial resolution was removed from the [Aug. 16] meeting agenda that they wanted to monitor positive case data and quarantine information prior to making a decision on masking in our schools,” said Dr. Hanlon.

As of Sept. 1, there were 33 student positive cases and two positive active staff members for COVID-19. Quarantine cases include 72 students and zero staff members.

Chardon resident Amy Hillis said wearing a mask should be optional and up to the parents.

“It is your first duty, your first responsibility to protect the rights of the parents who choose what is best for their family, you have no lawful authority to impose a medical device on anyone without their consent and you have no lawful authority to trespass on the face of a child without parental consent,” said Mrs. Hillis.

A parent of a fifth-grade student, Dr. Kathleen Ashton, spoke about her concerns with the rising COVID-19 cases.

“I was there two weeks ago to support mandatory masking in the classroom and in accordance with all recognized health guidelines, and since that time cases have doubled, today we have 7,000 positive cases in Ohio, that's seven times higher than we were like last year and at that point we had a lot more mitigation going on,” said Dr. Ashton.

”You’re likely to see an even larger surge as the weather cools in November and December, I am asking you again as a parent and a community member, to do the responsible thing and engage in mitigation measures for the health and safety of our children in our community, including mandatory masking, social distancing, enforcing quarantine, and contact tracing, and engaging adequate nursing staff to cope with the crisis.”

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