KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A federal judge has granted a motion lifting the mask mandate for students and staff while parties in the Knox County Schools lawsuit enter mediation.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer has granted a motion lifting the Knox County Schools mask mandate until parents who filed the lawsuit and the school district reach an agreement to end the initial lawsuit.

Greer wrote in his ruling that the joint motion to modify the mandate during the 60-day period was consistent with the Centers for Disease Control’s current guidance which now states that mask-wearing should be a matter of personal preference in communities where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is considered low.

Earlier this month, Greer issued a stay on the lawsuit and ordered the both parties to enter mediation within 60 days in an effort to find an agreement that will be accepted by the court.

COVID-19 levels in Knox County have been declining in recent weeks and the CDC recently downgraded the risk of transmission in the county to ‘low’ from ‘medium.’ Knox County had been rated ‘high’ for COVID-19 transmission when the new guidelines were issued in late February.

Knox County Schools has been under a reinstated mask mandate due to an injunction issued by Greer in September 2021 after Knox County parents of students with disabilities filed a lawsuit.

Another group of parents filed a separate effort to have masks removed immediately, suing the parents behind the original lawsuit and the school system. Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs and State Rep. Jason Zachary have contributed money and promotional backing to that effort.