As of Monday July 26th the New Mexico Public Education Department released their guidelines for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, amongst which requires students and staff in secondary school to wear a face mask if they are not vaccinated. Following the release, parents quickly expressed their concerns regarding the mandate. Parents opposed to the requirement packed the school commission meeting held the following Tuesday, July 27th, to direct these concerns to the school board.
The PED has stated that their tool-kit for the upcoming year is based off the recommendations from the New Mexico CDC. Federal health officials have recommended stricter mask wearing in the face of increasing COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, mostly with the unvaccinated population. The Delta variant of the coronavirus believed to be more contagious than previous varieties.
Parents at the Tuesday board meeting urged the board to break away from the PED’s authority and stand with those that elected them in, the parents. Many parents that were present stated that “Santa Fe” should not be making decisions for schools like the ones in Roosevelt and Curry County, that have smaller populations. Those types of choices should be made by the parents.
After the board meeting on Tuesday, a statement from PED was released:
District leadership is currently reviewing the guidance and requirements contained within this toolkit and will update our families and staff as soon as we are able to provide further information on what changes from the state will mean for Clovis Municipal Schools. In the meantime, the NMPED has shared information with the public which may answer some common questions.
While this statement might have eased the concerns for some parents in the meantime, this wasn’t enough for the parents involved in the ‘UNmaskNMkids’ Facebook group. With over two thousand members, the group is taking the mandate into their own hands.
On Tuesday August 3rd in front of the Clovis Schools Administrative Offices, a group of well over 100 protesters gathered with signs to “stand up for Clovis students.”
With hopes of local school boards joining the likes of the Floyd school board, and taking a stand against the PED, parents and UnmaskNMkids Facebook group members, Josh Parkin and Hailie Drake want the Clovis Municipal School District to “stand up.”
Josh Parkin a parent of three in the Clovis School District is one of the parents that helped put the Clovis protest together.
“This started with one person contacting a couple other Mom’s, and now we have quite a big crowd out here. If we can keep showing those people that think they can’t make a difference, to show that we can stand up against the government that we have, we can make a difference. Our kids don’t deserve to be masked.”
Parkin continued to say, “This choice shouldn’t be taken from the parents, whether they want them(masks) or not.” He is also hoping that Floyd’s boldness encourages other districts to stand up.
Hailie Drake, also a parent within the Clovis School District, feels the same and wants it to be known that these types of decisions should be make locally.
“We want to stop it now, we want local control, we want a choice. If you want to wear a mask, you wear a mask, but we want to make that choice. We don’t want these decisions being made for our kids. Our kids should not be political bonds.”
As of Wednesday August 4th, the Public Education Department suspended the five-member Floyd Municipal Schools board after the board twice voted to disregard COVID Safe Practices. Following suspension of the board, Secretary Ryan Stewart reinstated Superintendent Damon Terry, whom the board had placed on administrative leave because he refused to carry out its wishes. Suspended along with Board President Leon Nall were board members Jeff Essary, Vicki Banister, Charlsea Lee and Ryan Bollema.