WCS Holds Special Meeting on Face Masks

child wearing mask

Williamson County Schools held a special called board meeting on Tuesday, August 10th, to discuss the use of face masks in schools.

Community members packed the meeting room. Pictures shared on social media showed community members lined up outside the building prior to the start of the meeting waiting for the opportunity to speak to the school board during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Parents and grandparents of WCS students, physicians, pediatricians and other medical personnel, and community members from across the county voiced their concerns to the board. The discussion became heated and Board Chairman Nancy Garrett often had to ask for attendees to quiet down.

After the public comment portion of the meeting, Superintendent Jason Golden stated the staff recommendation is that students, staff and visitors wear masks at the elementary level when inside buildings and on buses effective Thursday, August 12th.

Golden stated the recommendation was made based on CDC guidance, the number of children currently contracting COVID-19 and the fact that elementary school-aged children do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Golden also stated that if a school is forced to utilize remote learning due to COVID-19, WCS will have to use one of its 10 inclement weather days, as the state no longer approves schools to go remote and count it as a full school day.

After the recommendation was announced, some attendees were asked to leave the meeting due to being disruptive and several attendees chose to leave the meeting.

After a series of amendments (which are outlined below), the motion passed 7-3.
The motion states that students, staff and visitors at elementary schools are required to wear masks when inside and while on buses. This mandate is in effect from Thursday, August 12th through 11:59pm September 21st. The board will discuss the mask mandate at its Sept 20th board meeting. In addition, teachers can remove their facemasks when they are 6 feet away from students and the medical and religious exemptions to the mask mandate from the 2020-2021 school year are still in effect.

Summary of Amendments:

  • Dan Cash (District 2) made a motion to defer the action for three weeks. Candy Emerson seconded (District 8). The motion failed 3-7.
  • Jennifer Aprea (District 5) made a motion to amend the recommendation to include all children under the age of 12. Elliot Mitchell (District 3) seconded. The board voted 5-5; therefore the motion failed.
  • Jay Galbreath (District 6) made a motion to end the elementary level mask mandate at 11:59pm on September 21st, the day following the next board meeting. The mask mandate would be on the agenda for the September 20th board meeting. Dan Cash seconded. The motion passed 9- 1.
  • Jay Galbreath also made a motion to allow all teachers who are safely distanced (at least 6 ft) from students the ability to remove their face masks. The motion also grandfathered in the medical and religious mask exemptions from the 2020-2021 school year and to allow staff and students to exempt with the same set of exemptions (religion and medical) for the 2021-2022 school year. Dan Cash seconded. The motion passed 7-3.
  • Jay Galbreath also made an amendment to the original motion to allow staff and students and visitors to have the option to wear a face mask OR face shield. Dan Cash seconded. The motion failed 7-3.

WCS began school last Friday with the following Health & Wellness Guidelines in place (from WCS.edu):

  • Universal masking is strongly recommended, encouraged, and advised for all students, staff, and visitors while inside a WCS school.
  • Students under the age of 12 are advised to wear a mask or consult with their health care provider due to their ineligibility to be vaccinated for COVID.
  • Do not come to school if you are sick or if you have been exposed to a person with a confirmed case of COVID-19.
  • Continue good hand washing practices. Hand sanitizer is secondary to soap and water but will be available at all schools.
  • High touch surfaces will be cleaned as a standard aspect of the custodial services operations.

For updated COVID-19 information from WCS, including weekly numbers by school, click here.