Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden said Thursday he anticipates he’ll ask that the mask mandate implemented in August be renewed.
The Williamson County Board of Education voted 7-3 in a special-called meeting Aug. 10 to mandate the wearing of masks in all elementary schools in the WCS district. That came with an expiration date of Sept. 21, the day after the board meets Monday for its regularly scheduled meeting.
The mandate expanded to middle and high schools a couple of weeks later at another special meeting, and in the meantime Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order that would give parents the option to not comply with the mandate. The board will vote Monday on Golden's expected recommendation.
“I’m sure you’ve had correspondence with folks on how that implementation went as we overlaid that requirement with the governor’s order,” Golden told board members at their work session Thursday night. “I do anticipate making a recommendation that we continue the mask requirement at the Monday meeting.
“We have about 31 percent or so of our student body who have opted out through their parents. … Based on the trends, I think the wise thing to do right now is to continue with what we’ve been doing these past few weeks.”
Golden said it’s difficult to pinpoint which mitigation strategies are having the best impact, but the total number of staff and students with positive cases of the coronavirus has been steadily dropping since a high-water mark of 544 students and 105 staff in isolation. The numbers as of Tuesday were 270 and 87, respectively.
Regarding Gov. Lee’s executive order for opt-outs, board chair Nancy Garrett mentioned she and other members have been receiving emails asking why WCS doesn’t defy the order as Shelby and Davidson counties have done.
“From everything we know, we are bound by the governor’s executive order,” Golden responded. “This is the law for us. … Shelby County and Davidson County have their own health departments and are a separate entity from the state health department. …
"I can’t speak or conclude that their reason for not following the governor’s order is directly related to that, but their health departments are independent.
“Ultimately, a judge somewhere might make a decision that has an impact on us with respect to the governor’s order, but for me, as chief executive, I have the obligation to follow the laws and the parameters given to us.”
Monday night’s board meeting will be held at 6:30 in the auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex.