Around 100 people attended the Sept. 20 Williamson County School Board meeting.

In what may have been the most orderly meeting of the Williamson County Board of Education in months, members voted 8-4 Monday night to extend the mask mandate that was implemented in August for all grade levels of Williamson County Schools.

Superintendent Jason Golden recommended the requirement remain in place until Jan. 19, acknowledging the mandate’s muzzle that was placed when Gov. Bill Lee issued an executive order to allow for parents to opt out of any such requirement. Voting against the extension were Angela Durham (District 1), Dan Cash (District 2), Jay Galbreath (District 6) and Sheila Cleveland (District 7).

District 10 member Eric Welch asked Golden why he chose to stretch the mandate to the third week in January, perhaps suggesting a shorter period could be just as effective. 

“It’s my opinion that it’s not wise for us to so quickly change back and potentially float back and forth,” Golden responded. “January represents the next meeting after the end of the semester. Given that the board put the mask requirement in place a few weeks ago, given that our numbers are slowly improving — granted, as educators and not as medical professionals — for the purpose of our mission of serving our students, it strikes me as wise for leaving in place. 

“I think with the balance of the opt-out, we’ve got a structure that’s stable and has been working these last few weeks.”

The WCS school board held two special-called meetings in August, as well as its regular monthly meeting, to discuss and vote on a plan to implement a mask requirement. The meetings brought out a number of parents on both sides of the issue, with those against the mandate raising the most ire and causing frequent disruptions with heckling of speakers, angry interruptions and loud catcalls. 

Monday’s meeting was met with a packed auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex and a lineup of nearly 30 speakers during the public input portion, but tempers were more in control than at recent meetings.