After hearing from more than a dozen parents and teachers concerned about students' and staff safety amidst the growing number of COVID-19 cases and the delta variant, the Phoenix Elementary School District's governing board voted to re-instate its mask mandate despite a new state law prohibiting this.
It's the second Arizona school district to do so after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance recommending everyone in K-12 schools wear face coverings while indoors regardless of vaccination status.
This guidance and these concerns are part of what went into Monday's evening vote, but it was still not easy to make, said interim Governing Board President Carmen Trujillo.
“This is just for the safety of our students and our teachers and that is the highest priority in my opinion," Trujillo said.
The district serves about 5,500 pre-K through eighth grade students, a majority of which are not old enough to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Governing board member Alicia Vink told community members listening to the governing board that this was not a position the district wanted to be in nor should be in.
“Our health organizations have made it very clear that masks are essential right now, that that is what we need to be safe. My son starts second grade at Emerson on Thursday and I want to know that he is as safe as he can be.”
Vink also wants all families, teachers and staff to feel safe and feel that they can trust the governing board to keep them safe.
The district's new policy starts on Tuesday and includes a limited opt out provision.
Last Friday, the Phoenix Union High School District also issued a mask requirement for its students. The governor's office has said school mask mandates are not allowed under state law and are unenforceable.