On the heels of Gov. Jay Inslee’s announcement Wednesday that staff in schools statewide must get vaccinated against COVID-19, small groups throughout the county took part in planned rallies decrying Inslee’s mask mandate for schools.

Inslee announced in July that all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, would be required to wear masks while inside school buildings.

More than 100 such rallies were planned statewide, including in Anacortes, Burlington, Concrete, Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley.

In Anacortes, about a dozen people stood on the corners at the intersection of 12th Street and Commercial Avenue with signs decrying the mask mandate.

“Parents should be able to choose if their kids are masked at school,” said Celese Stevens, who is running for a seat on the Anacortes School Board but said she was at the rally as a parent. “We have a duty to encourage and protect our children.”

If elected to the board in the November election, Stevens said she would like to have the topic broached by the board, if the mask mandate is still in place.

For now, however, the mandate is not optional for school boards, and is a requirement for districts throughout the state.

Small groups also showed up at rallies in Sedro-Woolley, Mount Vernon and Burlington.

About seven people rallied outside the Sedro-Woolley School District transportation and maintenance facility, about 15 outside Madison Elementary School in Mount Vernon where the Mount School Board was to meet, and about 75 outside Burlington-Edison High School.

Those in Mount Vernon waved American flags and held signs reading “Unmask our children,” “Masks are child abuse,” and “My child, my choice.”

In Burlington, a sign read “Unmuzzle our children.”

In a statement prepared in advance of the Burlington rally, Burlington-Edison School District Superintendent Laurel Browning said, “Our top priorities remain the health and safety of our students and staff, and maintaining full-time, in-person learning to all of our students. We will continue to work with state and local health officials and do everything in our power to keep our schools open safely.”

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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