PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Dressed in green and armed with signs and megaphones, an army of frustrated parents marched to the state Capitol on Monday, demanding face masks become optional at all Valley schools. Right now, the Arizona Department of Education requires face coverings at all public and charter schools.
"If they're going to keep this up, there is no way I'm going to allow my child to go through another year of excessive mask use," says Maria, a mother of two boys under the age of 6. Protesting parents say, if schools do not lift the mandate, they will pull their children out. It's a potential problem, as Arizona's School Authority has reported on schools in the Valley struggling with low enrollment and staff cuts.
"I think surprise, shock. I was wondering who else in my department might have been cut too because there wasn't any warning."
Maria says, because more people are becoming vaccinated and COVID-19 numbers are down, it's time to loosen restrictions. Roughly 100 people protested at the Capitol, but an online petition from Arizona Stands United collected over 11,000 signatures.
"The plan is to present it to the governor or someone on the staff that we can hand it to, so it can get to his desk," says Alysia Smalling, the woman who started the petition. The group also plans to present the petition to school boards across the Valley. But many educators feel differently.
"For me as a teacher. it's just a no-brainer," says David Peters, a history teacher and coach in Gilbert. Peters contracted the virus in December and almost lost his life from it. "They had told me at the time we have you on the maximum O2 you can be on."
Although Peters says there is no way to really know where he contracted the virus, there was an outbreak at his school at the time. He says for teacher protection, the mask requirement should stay. "I just think it's wise at this time for there to be masks and it's also a policy." Arizona Stands United has a protest scheduled for Wednesday outside of the Chandler Unified School District.