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TUSD Governing Board votes to continue mask mandate despite upcoming state ban

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 8:20 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Thursday night, the Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board voted unanimously to keep its mask requirement for students and faculty in place.

It was the last board meeting before Arizona’s mask mandate ban goes into effect on September 29, so, TUSD will be in defiance of the law.

Board members said the decision was made on behalf of students and staff with disabilities. Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo commends the decision.

“You’ve taken the action necessary to protect approximately 1,198 of our just shy of 7,000 students with disabilities in the district that fit the category of ‘medically-fragile,’” he said.

During the special meeting, Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen gave an update.

“Obviously, we remain very concerned because of high transmission,” she said. “Our positivity rate on testing is about 10% to 12%.”

Dr. Cullen says nearly all the positive cases in Pima County are now the delta variant.

So far this school year, TUSD has had a total 76 outbreaks with 2,274 COVID-19 cases and 43 classroom closures. Dr. Cullen says that number would likely be higher without the use of masks.

“Universal and correct mask use is strongly recommended by the county and the health department,” she said.

In his executive order, Governor Doug Ducey said, “Public education is a public right, and taxpayers are paying for it. Students cannot be mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine or submit COVID-19 vaccination documents. Students also cannot be mandated to be tested or wear masks in order to participate in learning.”

District officials will direct their attorneys to ask the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene and oppose the ban to keep at-risk students safe without risking state funding.

“The district seeks federal intervention to ensure that Arizona is not denying our children with disabilities the equal education opportunities to which they are entitled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” said Interim Governing Board President Adelita Grijalva.

Governor Ducey’s office responded. In a statement, a spokesperson told KOLD News 13, “We expect school districts to follow the law.” However, the spokesperson did not clarify what the consequences will be for districts that are not in compliance next week.

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