Metro School Board votes to require masks indoors and on buses

Posted at 5:46 AM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 23:20:56-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Metro Nashville Board of Education has approved a motion to require masks indoors and on buses at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

The Board of Education met Thursday morning to discuss mitigation protocols, specifically masks, amid the Delta variant spread. The board adopted the following motion by a vote of 8-1:

“Consistent with Mayor Cooper’s Executive Order 21, I move that MNPS adopt a universal mask policy, and that all persons indoors and on MNPS buses be required to wear a cloth face covering or mask, effective Friday, August 6, 2021. The Director of Schools is given discretion to design and implement alternatives to this directive, in order to appropriately meet the needs of MNPS students, employees, or members of the public, while providing reasonable access to educational services and government facilities and services. The board will reassess this mask requirement, under our given authority and with guidance from the Health Department, when all Metro Government issued mask requirements end.”

Board Chair Christiane Buggs said earlier this week that it was important for the board to talk about their protocols because of the changes in guidance from the CDC and the rise in cases in Davidson County.

On Wednesday, MNPS Director Dr. Adrienne Battle announced she would recommend a universal masking policy indoors and on buses, citing the rise in cases, recommendations from the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics and Mayor John Cooper’s new mask mandate for Metro government buildings.

NewsChannel 5 spoke with Dr. Battle as a part of our back-to-school coverage prior to her making the recommendation. She mentioned masking being a critical element and mitigation strategy.

“So we want as many of our adults and as many of our students to mask up at the same time, to be vaccinated. We know that again this pandemic has dominated the conversation around how we are educating our students, and it's important now that we empower our people to do what's best, and really give us an opportunity as educational leaders to have as normal of the school year as possible, but also keeping safety as the priority,” said Battle.

Vice-chair Rachael Anne Elrod echoed those thoughts, but made it clear this decision was a result of Nashville's own doing.

"It is disheartening, beyond disheartening for most. Particularly that this is our third school year that COVID-19 has affected. I understand that people are over it, but we're now dealing with the collective effect of being over it," Elrod.

Fran Bush would ultimately be the only Metro School board member to vote no this afternoon. She and others expressed concerns for younger students who rely on reading lips to better understand their teachers. She also made note of what she considered a lack of consistency with the board cherry-picking what policies from the CDC they want to adhere to. Bush used the example of how last year, health officials agreed it would be safe to return to school in person, but students still began with virtual learning.

"We need to start giving power back to these parents. These parents are tried of us making a medical decision for their kids," Bush said.

Most agreed, however, that if wearing a mask means getting back into the classroom for in-person learning we should do whatever it takes.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton announced this week that he would ask Gov. Bill Lee to call a special session if school districts opt to require masks.