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EACS school board votes for masks to be optional next fall, may change depending on state of pandemic

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21)- The East Allen County School board on Tuesday passed a resolution to allow masks to be optional in the fall.

The vote came after the board listened to parents concerns on both sides of the issue. Parents who were interested in speaking tonight were able to sign up beforehand.

There was a large group of supporters waiting outside of the meeting. Most of the people in the group say they want the option to choose whether their child should wear a mask in the classroom next semester.

Arielle Black was one of those parents. She spoke to the board about her son, who is undergoing cancer treatment. She thinks continued mask wearing would have an impact on the development of her son's immune system.

Although the board voted on masks being an option next fall, they did say it is subject to change and they will reevaluate the state of the pandemic when it gets closer to the start of the school year. That didn't sit well with Black.

"I was not thrilled with everything that was voted on tonight. I did appreciate that the board voted yes to at least saying possible mask choice for next year, but they said it was very fluid, which made me think unless FDA, CDC and Allen County Board of Health are not totally on board with mask choice, then they won't allow it," Black said.

All of the board members except Paulette Nellems voted yes on the resolution. Nellems says she voted no because she had concerns about students' safety if masks were optional.

She says the district she represents is predominately people of color, who are more susceptible to COVID-19. Nellems said she knew five people personally who died from the virus.

She said she didn't feel that the community she represents was able to have a say in this decision and believes it could be dangerous for those students.

"This virus is disproportionately affecting the community that I was elected to serv, and that's why, if we're going to make an addendum and if we're going to change the mask option policy, we need to speak to those who are disproportionately affected," Nellems said.

Black said she understands Nellems feelings, but she says she doesn't want her children to be afraid of the virus.

Board members say the information on the resolution can be found on the EACS website.

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Arielle Cadet

Arielle Cadet joined WPTA in August 2019. The Atlanta, Georgia native graduated from the University of Missouri and serves as Weekend Anchor/MMJ for ABC21. Feel free to connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or shoot her an email at

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