FRANKLIN, Tennessee (WTVF) — The Williamson County School Board voted to extend the district's mask mandate for all students visitors and staff through January 19, 2022.
The vote, which was taken during Monday night's meeting, was eight for and four against. The mandate will operate alongside medical and religious exemptions, as well as Gov. Bill Lee's opt-out executive order.
Board members said about 30% of students have opted out of wearing masks.
Back in August in a special-called meeting after the school year started, the district-mandated masks for elementary school students until Sept. 20 meeting, when the 12-member board would decide whether COVID-19 data supported continuing the effort. Not soon after, the board held an additional special-called meeting to go over staff issues in the district because of COVID-19 data. It also added a mandate for middle and high school students.
District-wide data shows cases dropping since a peak the week of Aug. 23, when the district faced 553 positive self-reported cases among students. The district is more than 40,000 students.
Since the special-called meeting in August, tensions on the issue have heightened in Williamson County. The first meeting provided a variety of opinions, along with medical professionals asking for a full mandate. It also spurred anti-masking contingents chasing those who supported masks to their vehicles outside the Williamson County Administrative Complex. Board chair and District 12 member Nancy Garrett vowed that type of behavior wouldn't be allowed moving forward.
Because of that, further security measures were put in place by the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Williamson County Schools. Everyone who attended the meeting was checked for weapons as they entered the building.
The meeting started at 6:30 p.m. at the administrative complex at 1320 West Main St., Franklin. Public comment took place during the first 30 minutes of the meeting, with every speaker limited to one minute per the board's policy.