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Debate over masking in the classroom rages in Alpine over new CA requirements

While the state's masking policy will be enforced, Alpine's school leadership continues to push for parental choice.

ALPINE, Calif. — The debate over masks in the classroom continues to rage in East County. Starting this week, Alpine's schools will be enforcing a strict indoor masking policy in order to follow the state's legal requirements released on Monday.

This is an about-face from Alpine school leaders' initial decision last month to let parents choose whether or not their kids wear a mask.

While up to this point school leaders in Alpine have been more flexible, starting on Wednesday, students not wearing a mask while inside -  unless they have a medical exemption - will have to return home for independent study. 

"I continue to believe that our parents should have choice," said Alpine school superintendent Rich Newman.

Newman also emphasized Monday night that if the state's requirements on masking in schools change, allowing parents a choice in masking, that Alpine will move forward to implement that change as soon as possible.

Last week, 24 students in Alpine had to be quarantined after two students in an outdoor class, which does not require masks, tested positive for COVID-19 at Joan McQueen Middle School.

"This has not been an easy opening on many levels," Newman added. 

Parents also had their say at Monday's special board meeting: the majority supporting their right to choose whether or not their kids wear masks, including a mom and educator. "If I am willing to take a bullet for your children, I should be willing to risk getting COVID for you children as well," she told the audience. 

"It can not possibly be healthy for our children to have to wear a mask," said another speaker, a grandmother whose children and grandchildren have attended Alpine schools over the past five decades.

Another mother questioned, "If they truly believe that the vaccine works, I just really don't see why they have a problem in the classroom with our children being maskless."

But a mother on the opposing side explained her issue with that argument: "I do believe that vaccines work," she said. "The problem is that my kids are not vaccinated and neither are any of yours under 12. They can't get it!"

"It is not hard to wear a mask," added another mask proponent, a mother who is also a second-grade teacher in another district. "It hurts no one and only helps stop the spread of this disease."

"While we can all agree that this shouldn't be political, it very clearly is," stated one parent.

In fact, a new CBS News poll bears that out.

According to the poll, 87 percent of Democrats nationwide believe masks should be required, compared to 28 percent of Republicans, while only 13 percent of Democrats say masks should be optional versus 62 percent of Republicans.

That same nationwide poll finds that 58 percent of parents think masks should be required and 36 percent believe they should be optional, and 6 percent say they should not be allowed. 

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