COVID-19 mask policy to be discussed at special school board meeting in Rutherford County

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RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Rutherford County School Board will host a special called meeting Tuesday to discuss masks in the classroom.

Right now, masks are optional for Rutherford County Schools, but leaders have been saying they’re highly recommended to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“The RCS staff is highly recommending that parents send their children to school in masks,” Director of Schools Bill Spurlock stated in a letter to parents. “While masks are not a guarantee to prevent COVID-19, health care leaders are encouraging masks as one possible way to slow the spread of the virus.”

The group Rutherford Students First already took to social media asking its members to attend the meeting to stand against a mask policy.

“Based on last year’s results, we know this losing formula: masks that inhibit communication + quarantine that breaks up instruction = lost school year. And sadly, the combination of masks, social distancing, and quarantine did absolutely nothing to curb Covid last year, and it will do nothing this year,” the group stated in a Facebook post. “We remain shocked that RCS had months to plan for a more effective approach, but has not altered last year’s failed approach in any way. It is clear parents need to step up and engage in this situation to salvage the school year.”

Another parent group, Safe RCS, plans to have members in attendance at the meeting as well after urging district and state leaders to enact a masking policy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask wearing for students and teachers in the classroom. The CDC issued the guidance in light of the rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

“I would love to see masks back in the schools. Of course, it’s optional, and some students wear them and some teachers wear them,” said Rutherford Education Association President Geneva Cook. “I really felt like masks are the very best thing to mitigate, and then social distancing but it’s really impossible to do that with everyone in the building.”

The entire school district had to close last Friday due to staffing issues. At that time they had 14 bus drivers who were out for a COVID-related reason, and those drivers cover 38 bus routes, which affect 4,850 students. Ten of these drivers are scheduled to return by Tuesday. Cafeterias also had 55 employees out, affecting multiple schools, but 46 of those employees are scheduled to return on Tuesday.

“Educators that have been contacting me are feeling a lot of stress, a lot of frustration, a lot of anger that this is happening again,” Cook said. “Last year, teachers were just kind of in shock, and didn’t know what to think, and didn’t know how to do anything. But this year, after what we went through last year, we kind of know where we’re headed.”

Tuesday’s special called board meeting starts at 5:00 p.m.

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