Letter: Charter schools should let the masks go, too

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I was relieved that the Buncombe County Board of Education was receptive to parents’ pleas and called an emergency meeting to unanimously vote down the mask mandate in our schools, starting Feb. 28. This follows the county data trending downward, as well as common sense to leave medical decisions between parents and doctors.

My son is a student at Evergreen Community Charter school. Although the school and leadership are wonderful and forward-thinking in many ways, I am highly disappointed that they are not following the advice of the county. Rather than calling an inconvenient emergency board meeting to immediately vote down the mandatory mask mandate, they have decided to postpone their vote until March 17 and continue to require masking indoors at all times.

While watching the State of the Union address, I noticed that our commander in chief (age 79) and madam speaker of the house (age 81) were maskless, handshaking, and hugging and kissing the attendees. This blatant hypocrisy sends the wrong message to our students (future leaders) who are still being forced to wear masks in school. At what point do we stand up for the rights of the least vulnerable population of children and let their smiling faces shine?

As an active school volunteer, I have seen how masks distract from the school environment, cause prepubescent acne, make parents choose between masks or glasses, and create social, emotional and behavioral problems (especially for some children with intellectual and developmental disabilities). Masks should absolutely be the choice of parents, and anything less is a total overreach of power and politics. Charter schools should be required to follow public health recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county, governor and president of the USA. Delaying this decision is antithetical to their focus on equity, respect and choice. Let the masks go and get back to what’s important — education.

— Cristal Fox

Editor’s note: Xpress reached out to Evergreen Community Charter School with a summary of the letter writer’s points and received the following response from Executive Director Susan Mertz: “Evergreen’s Board of Directors is taking into consideration the opinions of those asking for an earlier vote than is currently scheduled. The school is actively seeking opinions of stakeholders within our community. As is stated in our mission, ‘We value the voice of every member of our community.’”


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12 thoughts on “Letter: Charter schools should let the masks go, too

  1. agustinfpalomoramos

    The physical and mental health and wellbeing of the students is being ignored because of the leadership’s inability to call an emergency meeting in what would be considered one of the most pressing issues affecting children today. THAT is an emergency. What is the point in having a policy to call special board meetings if you do not follow suit with the leaders of the Buncombe County Board of Education? It is too late now.

    The director’s comments and actions are the literally the exact opposite of what she describes. In the only poll that she sent out for parents and teachers to fill out at the last minute (Friday, March 4th evening- Sunday, March 6th evening) the results speak for themselves. This gave us 48 hours over a weekend with no publicized notice to voice opinions. Pretending to follow the mission to “value the voice of every member of the community,” and ignore the survey results released March 9th (78% of parents, 75% of teachers for mask optional or no opinion) is a farce. She also ends with describing that they will “vote on the mask policy at its regularly scheduled March 17th Board Meeting” giving no consideration to the majority opinion on the matter or to the statement written for the Xpress.

    I am a Central American Indigenous Latino man. Isn’t point of equity to listen even more carefully to marginalized voices? When I wrote into the board with questions on March 2nd, I received a boiler plate two-sentence response “Thank you for your email. We are in discussion about this topic.” It seems that once again, they are doing the opposite.

    According to the most recent parent newletter released Wednesday, March 9th.

    “Mask Policy at Evergreen

    Thanks to everyone who provided input to the Board on the recent Mask Surveys. Results show that 70% of parents and 61% of staff think the Board should vote to make masks optional; 22% of parents and 25% of staff think the Board should vote to keep masks mandatory; 8% of parents and 14% of staff have no preference.

    The Board will vote on the mask policy at its regularly scheduled March 17th Board Meeting. “

  2. Lou

    You’re ridiculous dude. There are SO many more important things to worry about right now. Masks are never a bad idea…especially as pollution increases due to the continued dependence on oil and gas and other filthy ass fuels.

      • Lou

        That’s disturbing cristal, but there are clean options to all fossil fuels that cost more and so efforts to push these options fail every time due to big oil stuffing money into the pockets of politicians. But okay, I know you need to feel like you did something there.

        • cristalrosefox

          Lou, I’m a fan of clean energy and agree that it is disturbing that big oil rules politics. I hope you find irony and maybe a bit of humor when you retorted about breathing dirty fuel and the only mask shown to provide any mitigation for long exposure of airborne virus’s is made of plastics. You’re literally breathing in dirty fossil fuel for hours per day in your face. Unfortunately, the number of Co-VID cases at the school this year make clear that universal masking does little to help transmission. Students are forced to wear ineffective cloth masks, and parents are expected to foot all of the costs and burdens. The cheapest N95 that I can find is $10 per unit in a children’s size. That is an extra $200 for one child per month for any effectiveness. Unfortunately, regardless of quality my son chews holes through his masks anyway. I simply cannot afford the extra cost for N-95s, nor do I find it equitable that the only masks that may work are only accessible to the rich. With all that pandemic funding, you’d think the school would provide effective masks for the students. I’m all for green energy and clean air, these seem like separate issues to me- but maybe not… You may also be interested in the horrific environmental damage caused by the extra trash from both the masks and rise in single-use plastics from the pandemic to-go food containers. Our local dumps have had an incredible increase in waste. It’s sad Lou.

  3. Concerned citizen

    If charter schools do not have to follow other mandates that regular NC public schools have to follow such as transportation and free/reduced breakfast/lunches, why would they have to follow NC school safety guidelines? It is because they are not truly for the greater public good. Often run by a select few making their own decisions, charter schools are de facto segregation of the public school system.

    • cristalrosefox

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. I think you are correct, although I was not aware of this as a parent. I entered for the charter school because I thought it would be excellent for my son who was interested in science and environmental issues. Knowledge is power- thanks for your reflection on WHY a tiny group of people make the decisions.

  4. gmo

    its really hard to understand such a tiny neusance like wearing a mask, or having children wear mask would such a trigger contengious issue. specially for the right wing folks.
    its wearing a mask during a pandemic, still killing 1000 people a day in the usa alone, not a huge sacrifice. I dont like it either but im not going full karen against it.
    grow up poeple. mature and do something better with your life.

    • cristalrosefox

      Thanks for the insult and name calling- how demonstrative of the need to “mature and do something better with your life”. Also, as the author, you totally are wrong on pegging my political affiliation. I have been a lifelong left winger. However, with the relentless power and control that has crushed any sense of personal autonomy, I might just have to go Full Karen and switch parties before November. Thanks for reinforcing my feelings about free speech. I’m sure if you were the student with disabilities struggling with learning issues because of masks, or their parent, and watched a school go against every other institution in the county it would be more than a minor inconvenience. Worth mentioning, that I was a supporter of the CDC advice for schools, until the board decided they were more powerful and smarter than the CDC. I’m going to change my name to Karen now, with my BIPOC family.

  5. kathy

    Someone needs to take this letter down, it’s stupid and out dated. The board there voted to do away with masks last night. Not to mention, when it was written, the parents had already submitted votes saying they wanted them to be optional and an email had already been sent to everyone saying that the school was just waiting for the next board meeting to happen so they could vote on it. Whoever wrote this needs to read the emails the school sends more often and Mountain Xpress needs to not spread rumors submitted to them. I’m sorry the board isn’t at your beck and call, but they are people with lives and were in the process of handling it.

    • cristalrosefox

      Hey Kathy-

      I can see why you easily jumped to your assumptions, so I created a timeline to enlighten you. Hopefully this helps you to understand more, as always, thank you for your comment. You are correct that these things need to be clarified.


      February 17th, 2022- North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper suggests that schools and local governments drop mask mandate.

      February 28th, 2022- Buncombe Board of Education holds emergency meeting and votes to drop the mandatory mask mandates in school.

      March 3rd, 2022 Writer (myself) submitted article to the Mountain Xpress after feeling disturbed by inadequate responses to inquiries about the mask policy and school going against the rest of higher government and CDC suggestions. Newspaper contacts the Evergreen Board of Directors for a statement. Yay! Public discourse that values all voices! Author feels “seen” for the first time and is grateful.

      March 4th, 2022 (as published in the public minutes for the March 17th meeting) Executive committee “Discussed next steps on mask mandate and whether or not to call a special board meeting for a vote prior to the regularly scheduled board meeting. Recommend polling all parents and staff for opinions related to mask-required or mask-optional.”

      March 4-6th, 2022 Parent/Teacher mask survey received by email Friday evening to be completed by Sunday evening with no notice or universal text message to give us a heads up.

      March 8th, 2022 (as published in the public minutes for the March 17th meeting) Select group of Board Members “Discussed results of parent and staff surveys about the continuation of mask mandates and discussed whether to hold a special meeting; executive committee voted unanimously to not hold a special meeting to decide on the mask mandate and move forward with the regularly scheduled board meeting.” By the way Kathy, all meetings are held on Zoom and this topic was allocated 5 minutes for the March 17th meeting.

      March 12th, 2022 My opinion article is published in the digital version of the Mountain Xpress. 3000+ Views in 5 days. Parents contact me directly, some in tears, because they were so grateful that someone actually stood up for their children and were afraid that their families would be ostracized for doing so. They did not feel seen, heard, or listened to.

      March 17th, 2022- Evergreen Board of Directors met on Zoom. The board packet included fourteen different parents/guardians writing in passionate letters (some multiple times and very angry to the point of possibly unenrolling their children) to encourage the lifting of the mandatory mask mandate immediately. Two parents (including the author) speak respectfully to the Board in their 3 minute public comment allotments. After some deliberation, the majority of the board votes yes, chair abstains, and one member votes no. A text messages goes out to all families that the mask mandate is lifted and to check email for more details. Thank goodness!

      March 18th, 2022- Effective this Friday morning, masks are optional at Evergreen for students and no teachers can enforce any student to wear a mask. The decision is now between parents (their doctors) and children.

      March 19th, 2022- “Kathy” calls this article stupid and irrelevant, assumes the author does not read her emails, and thinks that the article should be taken down. I understand that the timing was unclear, but your name calling would violate the Board’s public comment policy. To date, the following law still stands and the board will be voting on this every month:

      Session Law 2021-130
      SECTION 10. For the 2021-2022 school year, all public school units shall adopt a policy regarding the use of face coverings by employees and students. The governing body of the public school unit shall vote at least once a month on whether the face covering policy should be modified.

      Stay vigilant people. Thank you to the other activist parents who wrote in to the board about this issue! Thanks to the board for FINALLY lifting the mandate. I know that was hard for some of you, but you made the right decision. Hopefully we can support our overstretched guidance counselors and get our kids some mental health resources next! See you at the next board meeting. Thanks for NOT taking down my article Mountain Xpress- we need to keep speech free and dialogue open.



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