Photo Credit: Hancock County Middle/High School – Facebook / Masks Required Sign – Public Domain
Published August 5, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
On Tuesday, August 3, Hancock County Schools announced that they would be the only school system in Northeast Tennessee to require masks. The mandate will start on Wednesday and will require students to wear masks in school buildings and on buses.
The announcement was made by the Hancock director of schools, Charlotte Mullins.
Mullins issued a statement to 10 News to say “significant changes in local covid data prompted our system to consider additional measures to protect the health and wellbeing of our students.”
Mullins said the decision was made to protect teachers and staff, as well as students.
Tennessee Health Commissioner Dr. Lisa Piercey told News 5 that decisions about mask mandates are up to local school districts.
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In a news conference, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton spoke out against any mask requirements in schools.
“I sure hope school systems do not require a mask mandate for those students,” he said. “If they do, I’m going to ask the governor for a special session.”
Sexton added that he would try to take funding from schools that do implement these mandates.
“If they do, I’m going to ask the governor for legislation to allow parents in those districts to take their money through school choice and go wherever they deem they need to go,” he said.
Johnson City plans to make masks a recommendation but will not be requiring them. During a recent school board meeting they discussed the hospitalization of four students due to Covid.
Johnson City Director of schools, Steve Barnett, was interviewed on News 5 where he said a mask mandate was not something the state would support.
The Director of schools for Unicoi County, John English, said that balancing health and learning could not be done while wearing masks.
English said, “We could talk about four kids in the hospital, and that’s four too many. But I could rattle off 20 names of kids who desperately need to be in school having those interactions with teachers.”
Knox County Schools also plan to open on Monday without a mask requirement after a recent school board meeting. The district will allow it to be up to parents if their children wear a mask to school or not.
Board member and vice-chair Virginia Babb said, “I don’t see this, personally, as the time for mandates, but where I do see things is I want to strongly recommend people to wear masks, especially if they feel like they should, and people should feel comfortable wearing a mask, whether it’s a teacher or a student, and I do want the language to change in that way.”
Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs said he is against mask mandates, though he is not able to make that decision for the school system.
Tennessee Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn visited Shelby County last week and said she supported school districts getting to make their own decision about requiring masks.
She said, “that is a local decision, and I certainly support local control and making the best decisions for their communities.”
About the Author:
Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative
Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com