NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More than 1,000 people have signed an online petition wanting the mask mandate to be reinstated at Metro Nashville Public Schools.
Some Metro Schools parents said they want to have mask mandates reinstated especially as the new delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread.
"In Tennessee, we have one of the lowest vaccine uptakes in the United States which puts us as Tennesseans in a vulnerable position," said Dr. Mary Kline Barnes, a Metro Schools parent.
Some parents say another concern is students bringing the virus home to their family.
"Children can pass it to grandma and grandpa on the weekend who may not be vaccinated and even if they are, they are still at risk," said Fanny Sung Whelan, another Metro Schools parent. "We can't use old data, we have to look at it as we don't know what's going to happen."
Daniel Stafford, whose 7-year-old is about to start second grade at Lockeland Elementary, said until children have the option of being vaccinated, he feels masks would be the best way to protect the community.
"What we know is we are very close to getting approval for kids to get vaccinated in a few months," said Stafford. "As long as we can't have the first best option, we want to next best thing in place."
Metro Nashville Public Schools announced COVID-19 policies for the 2021-22 school year, saying masks would be optional but encouraged. Social distancing will also be encouraged, with a distance of at least three feet, and students 12 and up will be encouraged to get the vaccine.
Barnes believes this isn't enough. While she acknowledges MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle and the MNPS School Board members for stepping up for students to ensure safety in schools for the upcoming school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she would like to have the same precautions taken this year with the high transmissibility of the delta variant.
Barnes said she would like to urge MNPS to outline transparent metrics that they are following and what metrics would trigger a mask mandate in the school district. Metro Nashville Public Schools will start the new school year on August 10.
We reached out to MNPS and a spokesperson with them sent us this statement:
"While we don’t have any plans to change our protocols that were announced on Tuesday at this time, we appreciate the input of parents and families in the district. As Dr. Battle said when the plans were announced, we will continue to monitor community transmission rates and cases throughout our schools. If we see the need to move to a mask requirement, we may very well do so if the data indicates it is necessary to protect the health and well-being of our students, staff, or their families."