Oak Ridge elementary school implements mask mandate after COVID-19 cases rise

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FILE – In this Monday, March 29, 2021, file photo, Jenea Edwards, of the North Side, helps her son Elijah, 9, in the third grade, with his mask before heading into Manchester Academic Charter School on the first day of in-person learning via a hybrid schedule, in Pittsburgh. (Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP, File)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students at Willow Brook Elementary will be under a mask mandate beginning Monday, Aug. 9, just days after starting the school year. According to a letter from Superintendent Bruce Borchers, the school has eight students and four staff members who have COVID-19.

The letter included a table showing 22 cases across the district’s nine schools.

“Please be confident that student and staff safety will continue to be our top priority as we continue our efforts of providing students a normal school year even with the challenges of a pandemic,” the letter states. “We understand that there are many viewpoints regarding masks as some are advocating for masks while others are strongly opposed to requiring students and staff to wear masks. We expect that there will be times throughout this school year where we will experience an increase in COVID being transmitted at a particular school(s) which will mean a mask mandate will be needed.”

The letter notes the mandates will be temporary and based on the data for each school.

“This approach will allow us to address the current need at each building rather than making a districtwide decision that isn’t necessary,” Borchers says in the letter.

Oak Ridge Schools received an Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant that pays for tests for students and staff exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. The results will be available within 24 hours. Parent permission is required prior to testing a student.

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