MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Some school districts in Shelby County are changing their plans after the Shelby County Health Department sent out a new directive that mandates masks be worn in schools.
Collierville Schools was huddling with the school board Friday and deciding what to tell principals and parents.
“I think it is a sensible choice. The COVID variant is spreading and we need as much protection for ourselves and for our children, for the parents and grandparents and especially teachers,” said one Collierville resident who spoke with WREG.
Collierville had been planning to open school doors Monday with parents making the decision whether or not their kids would mask up. It led to heated debate at the Collierville School Board meeting just last week.
“We must all be given the opportunity to choose what is best for our children,” one parent said at the school board meeting last week.
“Parents who want their children to attend school unimpeded by a face covering should have that right as well,” said another parent at the meeting.
But now the Shelby County Health Department says with the surge in coronavirus cases in Shelby County and children facing severe outcomes if they get the virus, masks add an extra layer of protection, especially for kids who can’t get the vaccine.
During a media briefing Friday afternoon, Dr. Lisa Piercey, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, spoke about having a choice when it comes to masks.
“We are telling districts and parents this is your choice. You have heard me say before, disease spread is not the same all over the state at the same time,” said Piercey. “Like I have said before it’s a little more hot and heavy in Shelby County and in West Tennessee right now than it is in other parts of the state. That’s why it so important that parents weigh into their school boards, and school boards make those decisions on the local level according to what is happening in the community.”
The Shelby County mask mandate is for all K-12, pre-K and daycare facilities and extends to teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, whether vaccinated or not.
“I think it’s a necessary move. It is designed to keep our kids safer as they are forced to go back to in person schooling,” said Collierville parent Danielle Davis.
One school system that is ready is Shelby County Schools. It had already announced it was requiring everyone in school buildings this year to wear a mask. Shelby County Schools start classes Monday.