NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville Public Schools will continue to require masks in the classroom despite Gov. Bill Lee's executive order requiring that districts allow students the option opt-out.
On Monday afternoon, Lee announced Executive Order No. 83, which states a student's parent or guardian has the right to opt out of any mask order or requirement for a student in kindergarten through 12th grade by notifying in writing the local education agency or personnel at the student's school.
Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle released the following statement in response to the executive order:
"The Metro Nashville Board of Education and I are charged with educating our students and with keeping them safe. Universal masking policies, during the pandemic, are a key mitigation strategy to do just that. To allow anyone to opt out of these policies for any reason, other than legitimate medical need, would make them ineffective and would require more students to be quarantined and kept out of the classroom.
The Governor’s executive order was released without prior notice to school districts for review or comment. As such, Metro Schools will continue to require face masks, pursuant to the rules adopted by the Board, as we further review this order and explore all options available to the district to best protect the health of our students, teachers, and staff."
On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Randy McNally released the following statement, saying he was "appalled and alarmed" at the district's response:
"I am extremely appalled and alarmed at the response to Governor Lee's executive order from Metro Nashville Public Schools and Shelby County Schools. This order was a compromise that still allows school boards to ensure the health and safety of their students while recognizing the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children. The Governor and the General Assembly cannot and will not allow lawful orders to be defied. If these systems persist in resisting the order, we will have no choice but to exercise other remedial options."
The school district adopted a universal mask policy for the new school year on August 5. It applies to all students, staff and visitors inside district facilities.
As of Monday, more than 1,000 Metro students and staff are either quarantined or isolated due to COVID-19. Among the staff, there are 52 confirmed positive cases. Among students, there are 207 confirmed positive cases.