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SPRING HILL, Kan. — Parents can keep signing medical exemption forms meant for doctors so their children don’t have to wear masks.

Monday night Spring Hill USD 230 School Board approved the practice in place since school started last week by a 4-1 vote.

The vote followed nearly two hours of public comment that seemed split right down the middle with parents against and in favor of the waivers. Each side said it’s been a very ugly battle that’s been playing out on social media the past week, with people posting photos of unmasked children.

Monday’s vote was the formal approval of a policy the district started the day before school started last week. So far it’s caused some big changes.

Last year when doctors had to sign those forms only nine children in the district were exempt from wearing masks. In the first three days of school this year 443 of those forms were signed, 400 by parents, 43 by medical professionals.

Parents in favor of the exemptions say they can’t get doctors to sign the forms for issues like mental health, or breathing or physical disabilities because their hospitals or medical practices have told them they aren’t allowed.

So they applauded the district for letting parents decide what’s best medically for their kids.

“I don’t care if you want to wear a mask that’s totally fine, but my child is not going to because I am the parent and I make that choice,” parent Megan Miller said.

There was also strong opposition with some parents saying they’ll pull their kids out of school in the district as a result of Monday’s vote.

“The parental mask exemption needs to be revoked we need to return to medical professionals who are the ones who are allowed to exempt children based on their professional evaluation which is impartial,” Jamin Landavazo said before the vote.

Others clamored for a return to some of the COVID-19 protocols that were in place last year, before the Delta Variant which seems to be affecting more children.

School Board President Doug Updike, the only board member who opposed the parental waivers, called for a survey to see how parents felt about masks and COVID-19 protocols right now. Other board members countered surveys can be skewed by how the questions are asked.