After Ruling Allowing Mask Mandates, Many Metro Phoenix Districts Keep Face Masks Optional

Staff and students in Tolleson Union High School District were required to wear face masks indoors for the first time this school year.

That's because a sweeping court ruling last month gave school districts in Arizona the authority to enact their own mask rules.

But Tolleson is a rare case — few school districts in metro Phoenix that kept masks optional this fall have rushed to change their policies, even as public health officials recommend staff and students, particularly those too young to be vaccinated, wear masks inside.

For months, public health professionals and concerned parents in Arizona have decried the Legislature’s efforts to ban school districts from implementing mask rules to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

But even with that barrier gone, some of the state's biggest districts have kept face masks optional.

Neither Mesa Public Schools nor Chandler Unified School District, two of the largest districts in Arizona, are planning to adopt a mask rule. Dysart Unified School District, Buckeye Elementary School District, Buckeye Union High School District and Peoria Unified School District have also said masks will remain optional.

Some school districts said it was because they have effective COVID-19 mitigation measures in place, including mask policies that kick in at a certain percentage of positive cases. In others, a split governing board may not have the majority support needed to pass a face mask measure.

Either way, the policies show that the ambivalence and ongoing tension around school mask policies in Arizona go beyond the governor’s office.

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Mesa Public Schools said the court ruling didn’t impact its mitigation strategies because its approach included school masks at certain levels of COVID-19 spread. If the district sees an elevated case count in a classroom, students are required to mask for 10 days to avoid a scenario where the entire class needs to be quarantined. If 3 percent or more of a school’s staff and students test positive for COVID-19, the entire school will require masks.

Lindsay Love, a Chandler Unified School District board member, said by email that while she is a supporter of masks, the board’s last vote was to maintain its current mitigation strategies. A district spokesperson confirmed that there were no immediate plans to change the masking policy.

Buckeye Union High and Buckeye Elementary school districts both said masks would remain optional because their mitigation plans were working and that they would be monitoring the situation closely.

Out of 39 districts in metro Phoenix, 21 have had a mask mandate in some form since the fall. Three districts have put in a mandate since the court ruling. And at least another nine districts have kept masks optional.

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What parents advocating for masks say

While the mask ruling may not have led to universal masking in schools, some parent advocates say it's been helpful in giving an indication of where legal challenges stand on school masking.

It's also put the issue on the map for many families who may have needed support to advocate for masking in their schools, said Trevor Nelson, co-founder of Right 2 Safe Schools AZ.

"We now have really great local parent groups," Nelson said.

The group spent the last few months lobbying school districts to adopt mask mandates. Now, while the group still provides tools like sample letters that parents can send to their districts in favor of face masks, they are broadening their efforts to include other mitigation concerns in schools.

Chief among those, Nelson said, is making sure schools have adequate air filtration and informing families who are vaccine-hesitant about the science of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Reach the reporter at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @yanazure.

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Source : https://www.demingheadlight.com/story/news/local/arizona-education/2021/10/20/why-many-metro-phoenix-schools-keep-masks-optional/6024712001/

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After ruling allowing mask mandates, many metro Phoenix districts keep face masks optional

Source:Deming Headlight

After ruling allowing mask mandates, many metro Phoenix districts keep face masks optional

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