Some Arizona School Districts Requiring Masks Ahead Of Local Mandates

Published: Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 3:59pm

A growing number of Arizona school districts are requiring face mask policies for the upcoming school year ahead of expected mandates by local governments. 

The Kyrene School District — which spans across Phoenix, Chandler and Tempe — had initially hoped to make face masks optional, but it reversed its course earlier this week and is now making it a requirement. The district’s spokeswoman, Erin Helm, said this in part due to the rising COVID-19 cases in Arizona and the number of students it expects will return to in-person instruction. 

“So if we can’t maintain six feet of social distancing if classrooms are bigger than 15 students, then we feel we need to have the masks," she said. 

Helm said students will be able to take masks off in settings where they can be spread out. The district will also offer hybrid and online instruction options for students who can't wear masks for prolonged periods of time or are not ready to return in-person. 

The Tempe Union High School District announced during its Wednesday governing board that it would also require masks. The Phoenix Union High School District joined them on Thursday.

Other school districts like Mesa Public Schools and the Madison School District may or may not make that call depending on what local governments mandate.

Kenneth Baca, the Madison district's superintendent, said it plans to follow mandates from state or local government officials, depending on how far mandates reach, as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Unfortunately some of things that have taken place with COVID-19 and the approaches have become very political," he said. "Whether you are one side of the aisle or the other, we don't want that to be what guides us or influences us. We want the science, we want the CDC, we want those who have first-hand knowledge to help guide the decisions we make."

Starting Monday, the Madison district will require masks for all students in its summer camps. Baca said staff has already been wearing them. 

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