FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Williamson County School Board voted to extend the district's mask requirement to middle and high school students and staff until September 21.
The board voted 8 yes and 4 no during a special called meeting Thursday night.
WATCH FULL MEETING HERE:
The meeting came as the district already had to close Fairview Middle School due to faculty and staff illness last Friday. The closure cost the school one of its 10 weather stockpile days.
On Tuesday, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Jason Golden and Franklin Special School District Superintendent David Snowden wrote a letter to some state officials, asking them to urge the governor and the State Department of Education to allow districts to resume "Continued Learning Plans," better known as remote learning.
"Our students could have received instruction had the CLP structure been in place. Instead, they received no instruction Friday because that tool was removed from our toolbox. Today, both WCS and FSSD have schools close to this crisis point that we saw last week with one school. This will happen again," the letter said.
According to the district on Tuesday, 485 students and 95 staff were in isolation with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The district does have a mask mandate in effect for elementary schools and Thursday night's vote extends that mandate to cover middle and high schools. The mandate does allow for students to be opted out because of Governor Bill Lee's recent executive order. Staff and visitors are still required to wear them.
The district has 17,973 elementary school students enrolled, and 4,547 have opted out of wearing masks.
The last Williamson County school board meeting on COVID was heated. Dozens of anti-mask demonstrators showed up. Some of them didn’t even have students in the district. Then inside, parents exchanged heated words as many believe mandating masks infringes on their freedom. Daniel Jordan said, “Actions have consequences if you vote for this, we will come for you… in a non-violent way”
Other parents felt like government bodies shouldn't make personal health decisions for their children.
Kristie Harris said, "Unfortunately, politics have gotten in the way of keeping those kids safe. We see schools putting on pep rallies not requiring masks, we’ve gone from religious exemptions to not even needing an exemption, and everything is normal as though there’s no pandemic going on."
Harris is a parent. She said her elementary students in Williamson County have COVID-19 right now.
"The current opt-out system is what put my kids at risk,” Harris said, “I trusted our school board and elective leaders and they have failed miserably, but they haven’t just failed my sons and my family, leaders across the state have failed 21,000 children in the past two weeks, Governor Lee has failed to take this virus seriously from the beginning, and he has lied about the severity of the virus and avoided any responsibility.”
She said the guidelines don't make sense. "I could send my 13-year-old to school, I could send him to school and send him unmasked because he doesn’t have symptoms, but his brothers are both sick and covid positive. It’s absolutely insanity," Harris said.
She hopes stricter rules will be put in place to keep all kids safe "We aren’t going to have any freedom if all of the schools are closed, and that’s where we’re headed when we no longer have safe healthy teachers," Harris said.