ELKO -- About 50 people gathered in front of Elko County School District's Central Office on Tuesday afternoon to express their stance against mandates requiring children to wear face coverings in the upcoming school year.
Parents and children held up signs to motorists driving down Elm Street about an hour before the board of trustees met to discuss Gov. Steve Sisolak's Emergency Directive 028, which requires all individuals entering a school building to wear a face mask in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Parents Lena and Victor Krasovskiy have two children entering elementary school and one entering middle school on Aug. 31. They said they believed the masks would not be sufficient, particularly for smaller children.
"We are against having the kids wear masks for six hours a day," said Lena. "That's way too much for them, especially the younger ones. You go to the store, and they take them off within two minutes. There's not enough oxygen to the lungs."
The Krasovskiys said they believed they would homeschool or opt for virtual learning for their younger children this fall.
Richard George, a parent and school volunteer, said he agreed with the Krasovskiys, adding that he too is "on the fence" about allowing his children to return to school. He said the face-covering issue could create an unhappy learning environment for children.
"The worst thing you could do is make a kid sad to go to school because school is supposed to be a happy thing," George said. He suggested teaching children to wash their hands more and keep their faces clean instead of covering them.
By enforcing masks, "it's going to make kids, especially young kids, scared to go to school. Once your kid is scared to go to school, you've just ruined the rest of their school life," George added.
Face coverings could also pose a security issue, said parent Mike Salvo, who attended the protest with his wife, Jenny.
"What's going to stop somebody from going on campus with a mask and not being recognized sooner than they should have been," Mike said. "They're imposing not only a health risk to our kids but a danger of not being able to identify people because everybody is going to be masked up."
"[Kids'] rights don't stop at the door; they're American citizens. If they don't want to wear a mask, it's a choice," added Jenny Salvo. "We're American citizens, and we have rights. We're going to fight for them."
Parent, substitute teacher and protest organizer Caroline Hicks addressed the school board and explained its purpose and goals.
"There are many different reasons for our opposition. Some feel it is unhealthy for their child to be wearing a mask all day, while others believe masks will be an emotional burden for students at varying levels of distress," Hicks said.
"Whatever the individual reason may be, we ask that families are given the right to choose whether or not their child wears a mask while attending public school in Elko County. Families should have the ability to choose what is best for their child when it comes to wearing a face mask in school."
Hicks explained parents want to work with the board.
"We're here to help you to help us," she said. "We want to work together. This isn't us against you."
Board President Teresa Dastrup shared comments from Elko County Sheriff's deputies, praising the group for a peaceful demonstration.
"Thank you for sharing your feelings. I talked to the officers as I was coming in, and they said you did a protest like you should, so well done," she said.
Below is a gallery from the face mask protest on Aug. 11, 2020.
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