MNPS to require masks, despite governor’s executive order allowing parents to opt-out

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The director of Metro Nashville Public Schools announced the district will continue to enforce its mask policy, despite Governor Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt-out of mask mandates. 

The announcement came Monday night, just hours after the governor signed Executive Order 84. The order gives parents the ability to opt their children out of mask mandates put in place by local schools or health boards. 

Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle said school districts were not notified before the executive order was released. 

“The Governor’s executive order was released without prior notice to school districts for review or comment,” Dr. Battle said in a statement. “As such, Metro Schools will continue to require face masks, pursuant to the rules adopted by the Board, as we further review this order and explore all options available to the district to best protect the health of our students, teachers, and staff.” 

Dr. Battle has been a proponent of masks inside school buildings and on buses amid the rise of the delta variant. The Metro Nashville Board of Education adopted a universal mask mandate with an 8-to-1 vote on August 5.

“The Metro Nashville Board of Education and I are charged with educating our students and with keeping them safe. Universal masking policies, during the pandemic, are a key mitigation strategy to do just that. To allow anyone to opt out of these policies for any reason, other than legitimate medical need, would make them ineffective and would require more students to be quarantined and kept out of the classroom.” 

On Monday, MNPS reported that 52 staff members and 207 students had tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous week, with 980 students in isolation or quarantine. 

Dr. Battle pointed out that the district’s mask policy is consistent with Mayor John Cooper’s executive order for requiring masks in metro government facilities and CDC recommendations.

On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Randy McNally responded to Metro Schools defiance of the governor’s executive order, saying he was “extremely appalled and alarmed at the response” and said the state government “cannot and will not allow lawful orders to be defied.”

“I am extremely appalled and alarmed at the response to Governor Lee’s executive order from Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools. This order was a compromise that still allows school boards to ensure the health and safety of their students while recognizing the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children. The Governor and the General Assembly cannot and will not allow lawful orders to be defied. If these systems persist in resisting the order, we will have no choice but to exercise other remedial options.”

Lt. Governor Randy McNally

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