Mesa school district to phase out mask policy, others keeping theirs

Mesa Public Schools officials say if they don’t see high COVID-19 transmission indicators on the county dashboard as of April 29, the district will not require masks starting May 3. (Photo courtesy of KJZZ)

Mesa Public Schools, the largest K-12 district in Arizona, announced that it’s looking to phase out mask wearing at its school sites and on buses.

On Monday, the district will start allowing students to go maskless while outside. If the district does not see any spikes in COVID-19 cases, it will recommend – but not require – masks starting May 3. This decision came days after Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order that ended a mask mandate in schools.

This approach will give the district time to complete state testing, which includes having remote students on site, it said in a Thursday statement. It also allows the district to assess and plan for Phase 2, as well as address any questions or concerns from families or staff.

The announcement came as a surprise to Kelly Berg, vice president of the Mesa Education Association, especially because she has seen an increase of cases at Dobson High School, where she teaches.

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“That kind of worries me that there’s an increase at my school, and now in a week, we are not going to have to enforce the masks,” she said.

“I wish we could have gotten through the rest of the school year.”

The association conducted a survey, and 80% of the 400 respondents said they want masks to stay in place, and the remainder said masks should be optional.

If the district sees an increase of cases, it will take action, including quarantining classes, programs or schools, and reinstating a mask mandate, the district said in a statement. The district has more than 63,000 students.

Meanwhile, governing boards for Gilbert Public Schools and the Peoria Unified School District will keep their mask requirements in place.

“With such a short time left in the year and without knowing who has underlying circumstances regarding COVID or the vaccine, I believe we should continue wearing the masks for others and for ourselves,” Peoria governing board member Cory Underhill said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend face masks in schools.

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