The pandemic may be receding, but the issue of mask mandates is far from over – at least in Ahwatukee’s two public school districts.
While Horizon Honors last week announced masks will be optional anywhere inside or outside its Ahwatukee campus beginning June 11, both Kyrene and Tempe Union remain the only two public districts in the East Valley with mandatory mask requirements.
Tempe Union’s mandate extends to both inside and outside buildings on campus while Kyrene recently relaxed its outdoor mask mandate.
While Kyrene officials have extended their mask mandate indoors through summer school, when around 1,000 kids are expected, they took another step toward normalcy last week.
Kyrene Governing Board President Kevin Walsh said that beginning with the board’s next meeting June 8, a limited number of people will be allowed to attend its meetings in the district meeting room.
While masks are expected to be required and Walsh said additional directions would be issued soon, the board until now has allowed only essential district employees to attend the Governing Board’s meetings.
At the board’s meeting last week, the Kyrene administration released a survey showing that a majority of responding parents and staff at this time are more comfortable with requiring masks for all adults and children in school buildings.
The survey, which drew 4,595 parents and 1,493 staffers, showed more than half of both categories of respondents were more comfortable with a mandatory mask policy and less comfortable with an optional approach for people inside buildings.
The reverse was true when they were asked about optional and mandatory masks outside.
Respondents also were overwhelmingly in favor of Kyrene’s current quarantine policy that requires students to stay at home if they are exposed to someone infected by COVID-19.
The survey also showed that only 17 percent of staff and 28 percent of families favored no limits on capacity at outdoor events or outside visitors to campus.
But a few changes already are in the making for the next school year in Kyrene schools.
Christie McDougall, Kyrene’s director of curriculum and assessment, told the board that while a mask policy for the coming school year has not been determined, there will be a great return to normal for students.
Elementary students will no longer be restricted to staying with their own classmates and middle school students will have more electives to choose from.
“Students will also have more freedom of choice for activities at lunch,” McDougall said. “We will continue mitigation strategies such as hand-hygiene sanitizing and use of HEPA filters. We also anticipate that many events will be able to resume, although they may need to look a little different to maintain mitigation strategies, such as social distancing.”
Kyrene officials indicated any further changes in policies will depend on
guidance from county and state health officials.