Tuesday night, the Hillsborough County School Board held a meeting discussing the district’s mask mandate for next school year.By Casey Albritton

TAMPA, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – Tuesday night, the Hillsborough County School Board held a meeting discussing the district’s mask requirement for next school year. Parents had very strong opinions on the mask policy.

During the school board meeting, parents were able to voice their views about masks being required in schools.

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“Why am I standing here in front of constitutional officers, fighting for children to breathe unobstructed air in order to physically participate in tax-payer funded schools?” said one parent.

“We know that every time you touch the mask, which we know everybody does and don’t wash your hands, you have just contaminated whatever you touched,” said another parent.

Several parents said masks can harm children’s mental health.

“We know it reduced oxygen levels. We know it reduces facial exposure and social interaction,” said one of the public commentators.

“Or those who developed other respiratory issues due to all-day mask wear? Or those with autism or ADHD who’s conditions worsened?” said one mother.

Students in the district also spoke at the podium.

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“We feel very dizzy. It suffocates us and makes it very hard to breathe,” said a Hillsborough County Schools student.

“Masks are distracting. They distract me when I am doing my classwork and taking tests,” said another student.

On the other hand, Emma Westermann, who is a physician specializing in immunology, says students should be required to wear masks until all ages are allowed to get vaccinated.

“There’s no vaccine available yet to children under twelve. Clinical trials are ongoing but vaccines won’t be available until late Fall or possibly early 2022,” said Westermann.

She says mental health is a concern for all students, whether they are wearing masks or not.

“Students who have been ELearning for this past year may have a difficult transition back to school if their peers are not wearing masks. We will see a lot of anxiety among those students,” said Westermann.

The district says this discussion was one of the first steps towards making a decision about masks for next school year, and a special meeting will be held within the next two months.

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Melissa Snively, a Hillsborough County School Board member said “So what we are trying to find is that sweet spot in the middle where we are giving parents enough time to make a decision.”