ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Parents and their children gathered outside the Winnebago County Health Department on Friday to protest against rules which would require students to wear masks in classrooms this fall.

The group carried signs reading “Let Our Smiles Free” and “Unmask Our Children.”

“When we’re putting them in a mask everyday, not only are we depriving them of the social interaction that we need as a whole — I mean, we’re pack animals. We’re supposed to be around other people — but, we’re also depriving them of the fresh air that’s around us,” said parent, Shannon Harms.

Winnebago County Health Department director Dr. Sandra Martell said, in a statement, “Winnebago County Health Department has been working with the Regional Office of Education to develop guidance for schools for the 2021-2022 academic calendar. The commitment has been to return all students to full in-person learning. The approach that both private and public schools in Winnebago County are considering is a layered approach to mitigation to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Mitigations include masking, vaccination, testing, social/physical distancing and contact tracing. School leadership will be working with their local School Boards to consider mitigations and the best approach for their schools.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that unvaccinated students wear a mask.