With amendments layered on amendments, eruptions after eruptions and discussions stretched through the night, members of the Williamson County Board of Education voted 7-3 Tuesday night to approve staff recommendations that would mandate the wearing of masks in all elementary schools in the Williamson County Schools district.
The rise of the COVID-19 Delta variant has caused educational institutions across the country to reevaluate mask policies for students, particularly those who are under 12 and are currently unable to be vaccinated. For example, Metro Nashville Public Schools will have mask mandates for all levels in place for now.
At the moment, the county does not have a policy for its middle and high schools, but the elementary level now has a masking requirement in place thanks to the vote by the WCS school board through Sept. 21.
After being tweaked through the night with a number of amendments, the final resolution read as follows: “To require masks for students, staff and visitors at the elementary grade level inside all buildings and buses effective Thursday, Aug. 12, and to end on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 11:59. Teachers who are safely distanced at least 6 feet (from students) may remove their masks. We will grandfather exemptions from the 2020-21 school year and allow staff and students to exempt with the same set of exemptions religion and health.”
Voting for the resolution were Eliot Mitchell (District 3), Brad Fiscus (District 4), Jennifer Aprea (District 5), Sheila Cleveland (District 7), Ricky Wimberly (District 9), K.C. Haugh (District 11) and Nancy Garrett (District 12). Dan Cash (District 2), Jay Galbreath (District) and Candy Emerson (District 8) voted against. Angela Durham (District 1) and Eric Welch (District 10) were absent.
Like all WCS school board meetings — both the regularly scheduled monthly meetings and the special-called ones as Tuesday’s, for instance — time was made for public input. Thirty speakers took to the podium to voice their concern or support, 15 on each side of the issue.
There was even more input from the audience that filled up the 222-capacity auditorium of the Williamson County Administrative Complex, much of it in the form of catcalls, heckling or loud applause. Another thousand or more people shouted and held up signs outside the building.
The school board meets again Thursday for its August work session.
This is a developing story.