Kingsport City Schools to require masks for 4 weeks with opt-out option

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Kingsport City Schools has joined the growing list of Northeast Tennessee schools to require masks. Per Governor Bill Lee’s order, parents may opt their children out of the mandate.

At a special called meeting Friday, the Kingsport Board of Education heard public comments from parents, some of whom support a mask mandate and others who are opposed.

The school board voted 4-1 in favor of a four-week mask mandate. The requirement takes effect Tuesday, August 31.

Visitors and teachers will also have the option to opt-out of the mandate. As of Friday, Sullivan County is the only other school district allowing its teachers to opt-out of wearing masks.

Laura Davis is a Kingsport Schools parent. She says the mandate with opt-out is not enough.

“Masks do provide protection – some. But you have to have the other people wearing it too for it to work,” Davis said.

Board Chairman Jim Welch said the mandate should help address rising case numbers in the district.

“Just like every other system in the area, they just continue to rise, so every mitigating step we can take is a positive one,” Welch said.

Welch voted against amendments to extend the opt-out to staff, teachers and visitors. He said that is because adults serve as the role models to children and need to provide a good example through mask wearing.

The opt-out form will be made available to parents and guardians on the Kingsport City Schools (KCS) website.

On Thursday, KCS reported 152 students had tested positive for COVID-19 over a five-day period. 21 staff members had also tested positive in the same time.

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