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Southwestern school system may challenge mask mandate set by Shelby County Commissioners

Word traveled quickly to Southwestern Consolidated Schools Superintendent Curtis Chase about Monday morning’s resolution approval by the Shelby County Commissioners.

The commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a resolution requiring all Shelby County schools to mask up students and staff again in an effort to quell the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Following a Public Health Order from the Shelby County Health Department, students and staff inside school buildings must wear masks starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday. The resolution is in effect until Oct. 30.

Chase believes his school system does not have enough COVID-19 cases to cause the need to return to masks inside the school’s two buildings.

“Our teachers in our corporation have done a great job putting protective measures in place to cut down on this,” said Chase Monday afternoon. “I’m proud of what we’ve done here and I’m proud of our data.”

In a letter sent to families in the school corporation and posted on social media, Chase listed as of Friday 0.498% of the students in the corporation were under quarantine with a positive COVID-19 test. Another 1.993% were in quarantine for close contact.

There are no documented or confirmed cases that have been traced to being transmitted in our corporation during the school day, wrote Chase in the letter.

The School Board of Trustees and Chase believe the mask mandate approved Monday morning is not in the best interest of students at Southwestern. Fact finding is underway to challenge the resolution.

“I’m in charge of keeping kids as safe as possible,” said Chase. “It should be a local decision.”

Students will have masks with them Tuesday morning, according to Chase, and will be wearing them when they cannot maintain proper social distance.

 

 

Northwestern Consolidated Schools Superintendent Chris Hoke posted a video message on social media Monday afternoon stating teachers will be handing out masks Tuesday morning in the school system.

Plastic face shields will not be deemed acceptable, Hoke noted.

Triton Central students currently in quarantine but asymptomatic can return to school. TC officials will be in contact with those students to mitigate their return date.

“There are valid arguments on both sides of this mask mandate,” said Hoke in the video. “There is a justifiable concern that any mitigation effort, by that I mean masking, that is not implemented county wide, meaning everyone, everywhere, all the time, and done with fidelity, meaning enforced and enacted without fail, is little more than a gesture that will have no actual measurable impact on the community’s spreading or the crisis at Major Health.

“What’s without debate, we will honor this mandate from the commissioners just as we have honored all other legally-issued orders throughout this pandemic. In short, it’s the law and we will adhere to it.”

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