Group urges mask wearing in schools ahead of Knox County School Board work session


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A group of parents and community members is planning to bring their concerns to the Knox County Schools Board of Education.

They are worried about going back to school without a mask mandate as COVID-19 cases rise. That’s why they’re planning on speaking up Wednesday at the Board of Education work session. Last week, the board met for its quarterly work session a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its indoor mask guidance.

“This is politics aside. This is just health,” Shelly Higgins said.

Higgins is part of a group planning to be at the work session to urge leaders to follow CDC guidelines and mask up in schools.

“There are a lot of people, parents, stakeholders who are very concerned, particularly with the COVID delta variation and the fact that younger children cannot be vaccinated. It can be spread, and there’s not a masking policy,” Higgins said.

Discussion on public health protocols was put on the agenda by board member Daniel Watson to gain clarity.

“I thought the decision had been made on April 14. Our board approved a plan for (20)21-22. It was approved 5-4,” Watson said. “That plan was that we would follow the Tennessee Department of Health guidelines related to COVID, whatever they were when school started. Obviously we couldn’t have known what they would be. Right now there are some questions related to the superintendent and the board’s authority to be able to continue to follow guidelines.”

It’s that April vote that Higgins says she wants the board to continue to follow.

The latest we’ve heard from the school system is that a mask won’t be required for students, teachers or employees despite the CDC recently recommending indoor mask wearing again in schools.

“Maybe we’ll get to some kind of normal in the future, but we’re not there now. We are not close,” Higgins said.

Wednesday’s meeting starts at 5 p.m. in the main assembly room of the City-County Building, 400 Main St.

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