TUSD to consider mask mandate for students, staff and visitors

Published: Aug. 3, 2021 at 9:47 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Unified School District will hold an emergency meeting at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday August 4, 2021 to discuss whether to require masks for all students, staff and visitors to all of the district schools.

The district policy at present follows CDC and Pima County Health Department guidelines which “strongly recommends” masking.

But TUSD board member Adelita Grijalva doesn’t think that’s strong enough.

“If the language is recommend or optional, then what’s going to happen is you’re going to have about 25% of both staff and students wearing masks and everybody else won’t?” she said.

The concern comes because of the fast spreading Delta variant, which now accounts for about 75% of the cases in Arizona.

The Vail Unified School District was the first to open and in the first ten days there were 102 reported new cases of the virus and 11 outbreaks.

“That’s in a district which is the fraction of the size of Tucson Unified,” Grijalva said.

If TUSD decides to go with a mask mandate it would violate a state law signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey several weeks ago banning mask mandates in schools.

But two districts in Phoenix have already defied the ban.

Phoenix Union and Phoenix Elementary have already decided that all returning students and staff will be wearing masks in in-person learning.

“Most of our students are under the age they can get vaccinated,” said Chico Robinson, a social studies teacher and vice president of the teachers union. “They had to put in some level of protection which in this case is wearing a mask.”

Robinson also said the district would likely be proactive and look at legal action against the decision to ban mask mandates “so we’re not going to wait for Governor Ducey to react.”

Whether TUSD will go that far is yet to be seen.

“I know our legal team as been looking into different scenarios,” Grijalva said.

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