JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Johnson City Board of Education voted Friday to require students to wear masks at school until September 10. However, parents will have the option to opt their child out of the requirement.
After several amendments, board members decided in a 6-1 vote to require students to wear masks starting on Tuesday, August 17.
You can watch News Channel 11’s stream of the board meeting below:
School board members voted to pass an amendment that would allow parents to submit a form allowing their students to opt out of the mask requirement. Parents will have the option to begin opting out starting on Monday, August 16.
The decision comes as Johnson City Schools alone have greatly surpassed the number of cases of school-aged children in all of Washington County one year ago, according to district official Dr. Greg Wallace.
“Our positivity rate is 15 percent,” Wallace said. “I’ll remind you last year on the 25th of August we had 22 positive cases of students in Washington County.”
Board member Beth Simpson first introduced a mask requirement, saying local health officials have asked schools to implement one.
Then, board member Tom Hager proposed a compromise between a mask mandate and parent choice. Parents who do not want to mask their children won’t have to. They can fill out a form to opt out of the mandate.
District officials said that form will be available by Monday.
The only no vote came from local physician and board member Dr. Ginger Carter.
“People can get a second opinion and sometimes the data or the medical advice is different and so, it falls back to the parent to make the best decision,” Carter said.
The mandate caused mixed reaction from both sides of the mask argument. Rachel Stiltner, a pro-mask parent said the measure does not go far enough.
“I understand that there’s good intention behind it, but I still don’t think it’s quite enough. If we’re looking at data, we know that masking is the mitigation that we need.”
Danielle Goodrich, an anti-mask parent, said the mandate does not change much.
“What they did today basically didn’t do anything at all,” Goodrich said. “We now have to opt out. So it’s essentially the same thing.”
Board members also amended the motion to allow teachers to remove their masks while teaching in front of the class.
All Johnson City Schools faculty, staff and adult volunteers will be required to wear a mask at all times.
Students will still be required to wear a mask while on buses, pursuant to city requirements.