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UPDATE: TCSS mandates masks for students

The Troup County School Board adjusted its back to school plan at Thursday night’s school board meeting to require masks for all students and staff members. 

The school board’s original plan, which was discussed Monday and officially unveiled Wednesday, highly recommended masks but did not require them. Every board member spoke in favor of requiring masks during Thursday’s virtual meeting, and the board chose to approve the back-to-school plan, with the addition of requiring masks.

Every board member spoke about the masks as a needed safety precaution to ensure that teachers and students stay well this upcoming school year. 

“I’d much rather it be said that we blew it by requiring the masks than it be said that we blew it by not requiring [masks],” said Board Member Allen Simpson while referring to the school system’s mission statement, which mentions keeping students safe.

Board Member Cathy Hunt said she had heard from several teachers since Monday, and all of them were in favor of requiring masks.

“What I want parents to understand is if teachers don’t stay healthy, if our teachers get sick, there’s not going to be much choice for everybody to have traditional school,” Hunt said.

Other board members made the point that if a school had a COVID-19 case, or several cases, one of the first steps would be to require masks.

“If we were to make masks optional, and we got a sick school, the first thing we would jump in and do is require masks,” said Board Member Joe Franklin.

The board and Superintendent Brian Shumate said that they recognize traditional school as the best learning environment for most students, and requiring masks makes that environment safer.

“I want to be able to answer all those questions too,” Shumate said. “Have we done everything that we possibly know to ensure safety? And I want to be able to check all those things off my list and look people in the eye and say that we did everything we could to keep kids safe and to get back to some normalcy.”

Hunt said TCSS understands that the health of a particular student might not allow for mask wearing. She said the school system is willing to work with those students and their parents on an individual basis.

Brooks and Franklin both expressed concern that teachers might have to spend a lot of time policing masks, but they both felt it was best to approve the mask mandate. 

The rest of the back to school plan includes an option for traditional or online school. TCSS was expected to open up a spot on its website Friday so that parents could choose if they wanted their child to take part in the Troup County Virtual Academy. Students who were taking traditional classes didn’t need to do anything, according to TCSS.

The entire 18-page document is available to be viewed below. Note that the document has not yet been updated to include the verbiage for mandatory masks.