ECBOE to allow mask mandate to expire

Published 12:14 pm Friday, October 22, 2021

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In a special meeting of the Escambia County School Board on Wednesday, members agreed to allow the current mask mandate in place for all county schools to expire at the end of the month.

In a motion made by Sherry Digmon representing District 6, the mandate in place that is scheduled to expire on Oct. 29 should be allowed to do so.

The question before the board was the possible “approval to change the status from face mask required to face mask preferred for all Escambia County School students, grades first through 12th, staff and visitors.”

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The board had previously approved a mandate requiring all students, staff and visitors be masked while on school campuses in the county. That mandate was put into place on Aug. 12 and was renewed in September by the board. That mandate was extended through Oct. 29 with board members agreeing to revisit the mandate to consider current data concerning cases of COVID-19 in the system.

“We know what we voted on (then) has worked,” Loumeek White said during the discussion. “Our kids are our number one priority. As a board, we vote on something, we need to stick with it. It’s only seven days.”

Some board members voiced their opinions about moving away from the mandate immediately.

“”It’s students first,” said Coleman Wallace. “I believe by shifting no, we can make it a little easier. Scores are down. Masking doesn’t help teachers teach or students learn. The parents and kids should be considered. We would miss a lot of flack on the (Oct.) 28th.”

Danny Benjamin said he believes the mandate has made a difference among the students and staff in the county.

“Think of the children we’ve saved (with the mandate),” Benjamin said. “I believe with even just a few more days, we can save more.”

With the vote of board members on the topic, allowing the mandate to expire Oct. 29 was approved by a 4-3 vote. Opposing voters were leaning toward an immediate change in the mandate.

The mandate will be allowed to expire on Oct. 29 with changes in place when students return to school on Nov. 1. At that time, students, staff and visitors will not be required to wear face coverings, with the system moving to a “masks preferred” statement for those who come to the campuses in the county.

As per an Alabama Department of Transportation mandate on masks, students and drivers will still be required to be masked while on school buses within the state.