Debate over masks in Rutherford County Schools continues; Board could vote Thursday

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RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn (WKRN) – A two-hour long work session on Wednesday ended with no decision about a proposed mask mandate for Rutherford County Schools.

On Tuesday the board called a special meeting to discuss the proposal, and dozens of parents and students showed up to speak passionately both for and against the mandate.

As COVID cases rise in Rutherford County classrooms, some leaders are pushing hard for a mask requirement. Health Services Director, Sarah Winters, says there have been 3,130 students who’ve contracted COVID so far this year, or about 125 per day. Last year there were only 2,809 positive cases reported the entire year.

“This means that we have more cases in the first two weeks of school than in all of August and September of last year. Just for some perspective. And then we have more cases in the first five weeks of school than we had all of last year,” Winters said.

Currently, masks are optional in the district but are highly recommended by Director of Schools, Bill Spurlock. Spurlock also set the district’s quarantine policy, which one board member noted was not discussed or voted on as a body.

“We didn’t vote on these contract tracing and quarantine policies once as a board,” Lisa Moore said.

The policy states that if students or staff are exposed to a positive case, they must stay home for six consecutive days and remain symptom free before returning to school. If someone tests positive, they must quarantine until they’ve fully recovered. If you live in the same household as someone with COVID you’re not permitted to return to school for at least 17 days because of the “sustained nature of contact.”

Tracking COVID in Tennessee
📊 COVID-19 cases among TN school-age children
📊 Tennessee’s Current COVID-19 hospitalizations
📊 New COVID-19 cases and deaths reported by month

“I’d just like to say guys, I know we’re all getting beat up and it’s been a challenging year.. and I hope it gets better soon,” school board chairman, Coy Young, said.

The board will most likely vote on the mask mandate at Thursday night’s board meeting. It starts at 5 p.m.

If the mask mandate passes, Governor Bill Lee’s ‘opt out’ executive order is still in effect.

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