PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Not much has changed at Bret Tarver Elementary School in Phoenix, despite Gov. Doug Ducey's announcement Monday that masks are no longer mandatory for students and staff at Arizona public schools. Principal Joy Weiss said the Maryvale community has been hit especially hard by COVID-19, so it just makes sense to keep their mask policy in place.
"We have lost staff members, lost family members, and our children have been impacted by this," said Weiss. "We want to make sure we are doing our part to keep everybody safe." The governor's executive order left the decision to require masks on campus up to individual school districts across the state. And so far, most of them are telling students and teachers to keep their masks on.
Veronica Sanchez is communications director for the Cartwright School District. "We feel that mask wearing is the best possible safety measure that we can put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on our campuses," said Sanchez.
However, there are a number of school districts that have chosen to make masks voluntary. Nicole Kirkley is superintendent of Legacy Traditional Schools. She said their school board voted last summer to no longer require masks once all state and local mandates were lifted, and that's exactly what happened. The fact COVID-19 cases are down and vaccination rates up are two more reasons Kirkley feels comfortable making masks optional on all 19 of their Arizona campuses.
"We heard loud and clear from our parents throughout the entire school year the desire to remove the mask mandate, hoping that state and local authorities would remove that and we would follow suit," said Kirkley. "But we are also hearing from parents that are nervous, and from a few teachers nervous. We're saying optional - but absolutely recommended."
Roughly 100 people protested at the Capitol, but an online petition from Arizona Stands United collected over 11,000 signatures.
A number of school boards plan to address the face mask issue at their next board meetings.