The Wilson County School Board met last Thursday to discuss the school re-entry plans for the 2020-21 school year. Gaining the most attention at the meeting was whether students will wear masks. The answer is no as far as a mandate.
At the beginning of the meeting, Ava with “Teens for Change” addressed the Board. She presented a petition for students in grades 7-12 to wear masks. She was afraid that schools will become hot spots and that students and teachers will be at risk. She suggested that masks can save lives and that normalcy is not possible today. She asked that the Board do everything possible to protect students and teachers.
Dr. Bernie Seay, an internist and pediatrician in Lebanon, shared with the Board about how he was seeing increases of COVID-19 cases in his patients and at assisted living facilities in Lebanon.
“Recent studies stated by the CDC indicate that masks greatly slow down the spread,” said Dr. Seay. “I believe that we can protect each other with masks and there will be a better chance to keep schools open.”
After much discussion and several motions, the Board voted not to mandate masks in schools, but they strongly suggested students and teachers to do so. School Board attorney, Mike Jennings, said he strongly encouraged the wearing of masks, but he had not found any law that gives school boards the authority to require face masks.
The position of the School Board is that students and staff will be expected to wear face coverings while in the school building. Adults will model this behavior. Masks are optional when social distancing is feasible as in the classroom or less crowded hallways. Masks are strongly encouraged in high risk areas where social distancing is not feasible as on the bus, during arrival and dismissal, crowded hallways, clinic/isolation areas, and for teachers working within 6 feet of each other.
After the meeting, Board Chairman Larry Tomlinson shared, “I think it is evident that all the school board members are in favor of wearing masks, but we can’t go along with the word ‘required.’ It was a tough decision and we are in uncharted waters. I hope it is clear that we want to keep our students and teachers safe.”