Parent group takes out full-page ad to urge Gwinnett BOE to drop mask mandate for students

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — The mask or no-mask controversy is growing in Gwinnett County. One group of parents bought a full-page newspaper ad over the weekend to try and convince administrators to drop the masks requirement for their kids in schools.

The same group interrupted the school board meeting last week, refusing to put on masks when asked to do so.

The group calling itself Gwinnett County Parents for Quality Education posted the ad in the Gwinnett Daily Post and is also trying to raise money for a billboard near school headquarters.

“Our governor has lifted all mask mandates, so this illogical,” parent Rachel Clarke told the Gwinnett County School Board last week.

The group wants the state’s largest district to make masks optional both inside and outside of schools, starting in the fall.

“The mask is obviously a struggle for everyone here,” parent Tom Pennington said. “My concern is when you allow that to be forced onto you or your children, then it leads to other things.”

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So far, Gwinnett school leaders still require masks and say they are following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Riqia Lowo signed up to speak at last week’s school board meeting, which was interrupted for 40 minutes as dozens of audience members refused to put on masks.

“It felt like Jan. 6. It had a mini-vibe,” Lowo said. “The whole year I’ve been safe. I’ve got my vaccine. But it’s 95%, and I’m not trying to mess with that five. I really was trying to be safe.”

The board ultimately held most of its meeting in a different room as the unmasked group celebrated.

“I think there’s a decent chance in the fall it may be a non-issue,” parent Terri Stalker said. “If things don’t get better by the fall, things could get ugly.”

Parents for Quality Education raised several thousand dollars online for the ad and potentially the billboards in just a matter of days.

They hope to have the billboard up by the time of the board of education’s next meeting on June 17.

Gwinnett County Schools continues to search for a new superintendent. So far, 27 people have applied for the job. The board said it hopes to name a finalist by July.