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Fleenor’s seat to remain open until election; masks recommended, not required

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ABINGDON, Va. — Members of the Washington County School Board decided Monday night to leave former member Terry Fleenor’s seat vacant — for now.

Fleenor resigned effective July 31 following a contentious school board meeting July 19, when dozens of people spoke on possible policy changes meant to be more inclusive toward transgender students. The board decided to make no changes.

At one point during that meeting, Fleenor asked that some comments be “stricken” from the record. To that suggestion, audience members shouted “First Amendment” and “freedom of speech.”

School Board Chairman Tom Musick advised the board that legal counsel suggested leaving the seat open would make sense because a new member will be elected in November.

Possibly, Musick suggested, whoever wins that election could immediately take a seat on the board, rather than wait until the new year, when the term would officially begin.

Fleenor represented the Wilson District, which includes the High Point and Wallace areas near Bristol.

Musick suggested that all board members continue to assure anyone living in those districts that any board member could appreciate their concerns.

In other business, about a dozen people spoke on whether students should wear masks when returning to school Aug. 9, given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Ultimately, following a lengthy discussion, the board voted to recommend Superintendent Brian Ratliff’s suggestion that masks be recommended but not required. Whether a student wears a mask will be up to their parents.

Still, students younger than 12 who have not had vaccinations will be required to wear masks when in small groups, which is when they are 3 feet or closer for at least 15 minutes.

Speakers were virtually split on whether students should wear masks at school.

One speaker, Amanda Williams, said, “I just think the parent should make the decision whether to mask their kids.”

jtennis@bristolnews.com | 276-791-0709 | @BHC_Tennis

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