GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Pitt County Schools’ Board of Education met Monday afternoon and voted 6-2 to require face masks for students and staff for the upcoming school year.

Masks will be required both in the classroom and on buses along with any other forms of transportation provided by the school system.

Mask or no mask: What Pitt County, other school systems in ENC have decided

Governor Roy Cooper, NC DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen, and State Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson sent a letter to school boards that have failed to adopt the StrongSchoolsNC Public Health Toolkit urging them to protect their students and staff in the new school year.

Parents who spoke with 9OYS News said they were not happy with the decision. They showed up at the Board of Education meeting and outside the facility to express their opinions.

“It should be a parental decision. These are our liberties,” one parent told WNCT’s Caroline Bowyer at Monday’s meeting.

“The Board of Education is taking place of parents. What’s next?” another parent said.

The Pitt County Board of Education made the decision at a specially called meeting on Monday. It was a discussion only between the board and Pitt County health leaders. One of those leaders, Dr. John Silvernail.

After hearing from the health leaders, the vote for masks was cast.

Board members expressed support for the measure.

“In a world without a pandemic, yes I think we could obviously leave all these decisions up to parents, but it’s not our job to advocate just for one child. Our job,” board member Caroline Doherty said.

“I may be wrong today, but I’m saying what’s in the best interest of all our students or the majority of ours students I should say is to wear masks,” board member Don Rhodes said.

Those who were opposed also expressed their feelings at the meeting.

“Do we as board members, do we think that parents would send their children to school without a mask if they really thought they were putting their children in danger or in harm’s way,” board member Worth Forbes said.

Board member Anna Barrett Smith said her main concern was keeping students in the classroom.

“At the end of the day I want these kids in school,” Smith said. “We’ve heard from our health director, we’ve heard from the children’s hospital all saying that without masks, we’re going to have kids out of school.”