Knox County Schools Board of Education set to revisit mask policy in special-called meeting

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Hours after Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs announced the end of the county’s mask mandate, the Knox County Schools Board of Education called a special meeting to revisit the current mask policy.

In the April 14 meeting, the board had voted 5- to keep the current mask policy in place until Aug. 1.

Now, they’re set to discuss postponing a first reading and a recommendation to sunset the current mask policy tomorrow instead of Aug. 1. If passed, that means masks would not be required during these last few weeks of school.

This possibility is bringing mixed reviews among parents and school board members.

“To me the only question that the board has to wrestle with, is given the actions of the governor yesterday and not even the mayor locally but the actions of the governor, what is our current authority related to enforcing any kind of masking expectation within Knox County Schools,” said Daniel Watson, district 3 representative.

“I am definitely in favor of it sunsetting tomorrow as early as possible. I would like to see it just up to the parents. A lot of us have different ideas thoughts and opinions on the efficacy of masks, cross-contamination, detrimental mental health issues,” said Rebekah Reeves, a KCS parent in favor of ending the mask policy.

KCS parent Matt Blackmon, on the other hand, feels differently.

“The evidence is incontrovertible that masks help decrease the spread. You don’t wear a mask to keep from getting coronavirus yourself. You wear a mask to keep from spreading it to others. Our schools are very crowded. Our teachers and administrative staff do a great job but the reality is we can’t do social distancing in school we have to do the best tool we have and right now the best tool we have until we’re able to be vaccinated is to continue with the mask policy,” Blackmon said.

These are the points that were argued for months before a final decision was made. Now the board is faced with making the decision again with just a few weeks left in the school year.

WATE reached out to all nine school board members. Three of them responded. Jennifer Owen sent the below statement:

Two weeks ago our Board voted for our current facemask policy to sunset on August 1st. We set and communicated clear expectations that the policy would continue through the end of the year and through summer school. Our families and employees should be able to trust us to honor our word and uphold those expectations. To completely change course with three weeks left and just when virtual students are beginning in-person testing is irresponsible and unfair to everyone involved. Governor Lee’s press secretary has clarified that school systems have the authority to set policies for our schools. There is absolutely no good reason to create additional stress and turmoil for our families with this unnecessary meeting.

Jennifer Owen, Knox County Schools Board of Education member for District 2

The meeting will be held Friday April 30 at 10 a.m. in the main assembly room of the City-County Building.

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