Rutherford County school board to vote on mask ‘choice’ in schools

Keeping Schools Safe

RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — A debate of a mask mandate in Rutherford County is now in schools. Many parents are upset, and some school board members say they should have a right to choose for their own children.

“We need to put the choice back on the parents and there needs to be an end to this,” Board Member Tammy Sharp said in the meeting discussion Thursday night.

The room applauded for her and other board members who supported an end to the district’s mask mandate policy.

“The last thing I want to see quite frankly too is another round of proms and graduations where we’re having to watch our senior students in their last year of high school walking across the stage or dancing on the dance floor with masks on,” said Board Member Lisa Moore. “If our wrestlers can go to the mat with each other’s sweat [and] blood on that mat, wrestling around, our kids can walk across that stage without the mask on, agreed.”

About a dozen parents in attendance said they’ve been pushing for choice for months now.

“The parents at this point, should have the choice in if their children have to wear a mask to wear it to school, we’re wanting parents’ choice on their wellbeing of their own children, that’s not for the school, that’s not for the board to decide,” said Rockvale High School parent William Hill.

Hill tells News 2 he tried to speak at the meeting, but was asked to leave because he says he cannot medically wear a mask.

The group of about 30 parents created a survey and out of more than a thousand parents, they say most want the choice of sending their kids to school in a mask or not.

However, the school district has had at least two staff members pass away during the pandemic.

Rutherford County Schools conducted their own survey recently, asking 5,700 school employees if they were in favor of masks. Of the 4,300 that responded, 60 percent said yes.

But the Rutherford Education Association’s survey found a much higher number.

“Our most recent survey with the Rutherford Education Association indicated that 83 percent of educators would like to see that mask policy remain in place,” said Laura Schlesinger, President of REA, “And going back to the beginning of the school year, that was the number one determining factor in educators feeling safe enough to return to their respective school buildings.”

Board Chair Coy Young also pointed out that while student COVID-19 cases have gone down about 50 percent every month, teachers are the ones keeping schools open.

“Yes, the parents do have the say-so for their children, but if we don’t have the teachers in the classroom, guess what? They’re not gonna get taught,” Young said.

The CDC also just announced that students no longer need to be six feet apart, instead they now say three feet is sufficient.

The board will not vote on the mask policy until April.

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