Cobb sixth-graders forgo mask-optional recognition before school board

From left: Dylan Merrill, Zoe Diaz and Mia Rhea won first place in the elementary school division of the K-12 InVenture Prize competition. (Courtesy photo)

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From left: Dylan Merrill, Zoe Diaz and Mia Rhea won first place in the elementary school division of the K-12 InVenture Prize competition. (Courtesy photo)

When the Cobb County School District invited three sixth-graders to be recognized at Thursday’s board of education meeting for winning a statewide invention competition, their parents were torn.

“Do we want them to walk in there?” said Kerri Merrill, whose 12-year-old daughter Dylan is the only member of the trio old enough to be vaccinated.

She and the other mothers of the winners said they responded to the invitation by asking whether everyone in the room could wear masks for the duration of the recognition. When the district replied masks would remain optional, the trio declined the invitation.

“We congratulate all our InVenture champions and their teachers on their successes,” a school district spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We regret that some of the winners will be unable to join us on Thursday.”

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Kerri Merrill is one of hundreds of Cobb parents protesting the school district’s mask-optional policy.

Dylan, who goes to Dickerson Middle School, said the school district’s decision about Thursday’s meeting disappointed her.

“They wouldn’t put on a mask for a few minutes just to honor us,” she said.

As fifth-graders in the gifted program at Mount Bethel Elementary School last year, Dylan and classmates Zoe Diaz and Mia Rhea drew up a prototype for an app they named R.E.C.Y.C.L.E., for “Recycle Everyday Change Your Community Love Environment.” The app would scan an item to tell the user whether and how it could be recycled. The prototype also included informational articles and an educational game.

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The girls and their teacher, Melissa Danner, won first place in the elementary school division of the 2021 K-12 InVenture Prize competition at Georgia Tech. The girls won Beats wireless headphones and Rubik’s Cubes.

Arya Menon of East Side Elementary School won the K-2 division and a team from Pope High School — Patrick Astorga, Armon Mighani and Tate Smith — won the high school division, according to Georgia Tech. The Cobb school board is scheduled to recognize the other winners at Thursday’s meeting.

Dylan, Mia and Zoe plan to take a photo outside Thursday with Charisse Davis, the board member who represents their neighborhood.