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Parents of immunocompromised student speak out against executive action on masks

Nashville parent asks MNPS to stand firm on masks
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Posted at 8:58 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-17 21:58:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — She’s battled all the odds for a chance to be in the classroom, now her parents say Governor Bill Lee’s executive order could take away her only line of defense.

At seven years old, Arlie Wolfe did something last week she’s never done before. For the first time in her life, she walked into a classroom. Her mother Lisa called it an overwhelming experience to see her daughter light up with joy for something so many kids may take for granted.

“She doesn’t know what she’s missed out on, until now. She’s thriving and wants more of it,” Lisa said.

Lisa calls her daughter the “modern-day miracle.” At two years old, Arlie was diagnosed with leukemia and a year later she had a relapse. Leukemia had come back with force during chemo, which Lisa says was rare. Arlie took part in an experimental drug trial with the local children’s hospital and the results were a success. Arlie was now partly in remission, but a bone marrow transplant would make her recovery complete.

Around this time is when Arlie and her family started the non-profit Live For Everything. There they focus on “improving the lives of others, especially caregivers of children with cancer.” Arlie and her mother organize "comfort kits" with special gifts for families and other kids just like her.

Meanwhile, the transplant left Arlie’s immune system vulnerable, and in-person school almost impossible in a pandemic. The mask mandate through Metro Nashville Public Schools was now her final hope.

“I truly depend on the mask mandate for her to go to school and be safe,” Lisa said.

Governor Lee’s executive action signed Monday meant some parents can now opt their children out of wearing masks where mask mandates in schools exist. Lisa says it was tough to break the news to Arlie who began weeping, knowing that her one chance at school may last only one week. Lisa made it clear that for Arlie’s safety, she would only be allowed to attend school as long as her classmates were all told to wear masks. Now she's asking legislators to see it from her perspective.

Arlie attends Eakin Elementary School where Lisa says the school has been nothing but supportive. She says virtually all students are wearing masks and it goes for the parents as well. It’s become so second nature that Lisa says she’s surprised to see how it’s become an issue across the state and beyond.

Metro Nashville Public Schools tell us they have no intention of removing their mask mandate. In their first week of school, the district had more than 250 students and 52 staff members who contracted COVID. Overall, there were more than 1,000 people now in quarantine as a result of close contact. Lisa says she thinks about these numbers all the time.

It’s a risk, but she says it’s nothing compared to what it could have been without masks. At least this way, Arlie has a chance at a life a long time coming.