NASHVILLE (WSMV) - Metro Nashville Public Schools students are going to have to mask up as they return for a new school year. 

The mask requirement decision was made by Metro Nashville Board of Education in a specially-called meeting on Thursday. 

The school board met in the morning and voted 8-1 to put a mask policy in place that goes into effect on Friday, August 6.  

This vote is consistent with Mayor Cooper's Executive Order 21 that was announced on Wednesday.  

“I am supporting this mask mandate for that reason, to protect our students, to protect our employees so they can have a safe environment to have an education. I do not want to go back to what we had to suffer this past year. The only time I want to hear about school closings is if there is an ice or snowstorm,” said board member Freda Player-Peters from District 7. 

Board Member Abigail Taylor, who voted in favor of the universal mask policy said one of her goals is to do everything in her power to keep schools open and keep schools in person. She went on to say she is in favor of keeping schools in-person with as little disruption to student learning as possible.

“Whatever it takes for us to keep our kids in-person learning, focused on what they need to do to make sure they are where they should be academic than that to me should be the highest priority of the school board. We are not medical professionals, we are education professionals and our job is to make sure our kids are learning,” Taylor said.

She added her only concern was MNPS Director Dr. Adrienne Battle making accommodations in the mask policy for young learners learning phonetics.

“I am concerned about our kids being able to see the facial motions. When somebody speaks to be able to understand the shape their face should make as you pronounce this letter and this word and how it looks when you put it together. I would like for us to consider the potential of maybe a clear mask,” Board member Taylor said.

The only board member who voted against the mask policy was Fran Bush of District 6 and said the school district needs to start giving the power back to parents.

“Having some sense of normalcy. That was the goal to have these kids have some normalcy to go back into the classroom. Right now we don’t have any data to support this uptick, right now, I’m saying right now. We don’t have a city-wide mandate right now for masks. We don’t have a statewide mask mandate. I don’t understand why we continue to pounce on our metro school students,” Bush said.

“She is just plain wrong. If you look at the data from the Tennessee Department of state’s website, the cases are going up and up and so are the hospitalizations,” said Dr. Katrina Green, an emergency physician that practices in Nashville and attended the MNPS specially called meeting. “I have several colleagues in hospitals here in the Metro Nashville area and they’re all telling me the same thing that their hospitals are full."

The vote by MNPS Board of Education was met with applause and boos. Parents and physicians were in the room for Thursday’s meeting.

Krista Miller, a mother with a child in 3rd grade in MNPS wasn’t happy with the board’s decision.

“If you want to be vaccinated you have had the opportunity. So why are you going to mask my child when she is ONE of the ones that Ms. Taylor was talking about who needs speech therapy and it was stopped a year and a half ago because of COVID,” Miller said. “I’m fighting this for my daughter. Because she should not have to wear a mask when she is not sick. When she’s sick, I keep her home. She washes her hands. We take vitamins,” she added.

Miller said her daughter will be attending school and not wearing a mask once the Metro School year begins.

Dr. Mary Kline Barnes with two children at MNPS was glad to see that the board voted in favor of a universal mask policy.

“It’s a huge sigh of relief for me. I can say we have been working really hard to get his policy to change and we are happy that this is one small step towards ensuring the safety of our kids in the classroom,” said Kline Barnes. “What we’re seeing in Tennessee and many other states is that our elected leaders are not willing to stand up for the health and safety of its citizens so they are shifting control from the upper government level to the local areas. What it’s doing is its creating a situation where we’re needing to push push push and advocate for the right thing to be done in the pandemic."

The news of masks at Metro Schools is also welcomed by doctors in the Midstate who were at the meeting.

“I celebrate that decision. I wholeheartedly support it. I am very relieved that Metro Nashville school board did the right thing and decided to make masks universal and required for students and teachers this year,” said Dr. Green.

We asked her if doctors are seeing COVID-19 cases in children.

“We’re seeing a large uptick in pediatric cases. Just a few days ago I saw the report that two children died in Memphis of COVID. I also saw a report that four children are in the ICU in East Tennessee right now so that’s also a big concern,” said Dr. Green. “One of my pediatric colleagues has told me that when a child is sick enough to be admitted to the hospital for COVID this time around, 50% of the time they’re sick enough to be in the ICU and that should concern all parents."

"It was also included in the motion that passed that the board will reassess this mask requirement, under their given authority and with guidance from the health department, when all Metro government-issued mask requirements end.”

 

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Sydney is a Pennsylvania native who joined the News4 team in May 2019 as a Content Producer. She graduated from Bloomsburg University, "Go Huskies!" Send her news tips and sports/entertainment ideas at sydney.warick@wsmv.com or on Twitter @sydneywaricktv.

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