Whether by the governor or by the superintendent, it appears the mask mandate for staff and students in the Williamson County Schools district will be lifted by Monday night.
That’s the message WCS Superintendent Jason Golden communicated to Board of Education members during Thursday night’s work session. He said coronavirus case numbers are now at such a level that mask requirements are likely no longer necessary.
“My plan, based on where we are right now, is to recommend on Monday that we remove the mask requirement,” Golden said. “The board voted previously that we extend the mandate until after our January meeting, but given the recommendations from our health staff and information we have locally, we believe it would be appropriate to end Monday.”
The board voted 8-4 at its September meeting to extend the district’s mask mandate to Jan. 19, and members would vote again to affirm Golden’s move to end the requirement when they gather Monday for their November meeting.
It’s possible, however, that regardless of what Golden and board members decide to do, the issue may be moot if Gov. Bill Lee signs into law the bill state legislators passed in a special session a couple of weeks ago that bans mask mandates in school districts across the state. That law would go into effect immediately, and families would be alerted over the weekend.
Golden pointed out that case numbers have been steadily dropping, especially over the past month. The district hit its peak Aug. 27 with 544 students and 105 staff testing positive for the virus. By Oct. 8, student cases had dropped below 100 and have continued on a downward trend. Of the district’s 50 schools, half have zero student cases and 38 with zero staff cases.
It’s unclear what happens with the temporary restraining order U.S. District Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw Jr. had issued that blocked Gov. Lee’s executive order for parents to opt-out of mask mandates in Williamson County.
Crenshaw’s ruling was in regard to a lawsuit filed by two families against the state of Tennessee, Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District. The court identified the plaintiffs as families of a 13-year-old seventh-grader with Down syndrome and a 7-year-old second grader with type-1 diabetes.
Click here to view all of Thursday night’s work session.