Hamilton County School officials said Monday that beginning June 1, mask wearing will be optional for students and staff.
Officials said, "We wanted to provide a reminder and an update regarding masks.
"On March 15, we retired the Phase Tracker and committed to maintaining Phase 3 mitigation strategies through the end of this school year.
According to our Reentry and Continuous Learning Plan, those mitigation strategies include masks being optional for grades K-2 except when students and staff are outside the classroom in the building.
"In accordance with Governor Lee’s Executive Order 80, which calls for the lifting of mask requirements by the end of May, masks will be optional for all grades and all staff as of June 1. We will continue to monitor community spread of COVID-19 cases and reassess our mitigation strategies if necessary."
Meanwhile, a parent group said it will protest at the Thursday board meeting against continuing the mask requirement through the end of this school year.
Lisa Willard said, "Dr. Bryan Johnson, HCS Superintendent, has issued a statement that students will be required to wear masks through the end of the 20-21 school year while inside all Hamilton County Schools buildings, despite the expiration of the Hamilton County mask mandate.
"Parents continue to be frustrated at the lack of transparency regarding mask usage. K-2 students have been required by teachers and principals to wear masks in the classroom for the majority of the spring semester, despite the initial statement in February allowing it to be optional. Hamilton County Schools issued a statement on Monday referencing the optional use of masks for the younger students.
"Parents want the freedom to choose whether their children wear masks in any grades K-12. A mask is a medical device, and yet our parental rights to choose this medical device for our children has been stripped away. We know our children’s health better than anyone in the school building, and it is our responsibility to manage their health. Children across the county are being forced to wear masks while running in the gym and playing outdoors. This defies logic and our voices need to be heard.”
Ms. Willard said she created a Facebook group for like-minded parents to connect and "realized we are not alone. Free the Smiles: Parental Choice Matters is a central location on social media for parents who are engaged against the school system and their overreach of medical authority."
She said a court victory in Williamson County "further emboldens the parents."
She said the judge in Williamson County ruled that the "Williamson County Board of Education exceeded its statutory authority under TCA 49-2-203 to enact the face-covering requirement, and certainly now that there is no more county policy requiring masks."
Ms Willard said, ”Even the courts say that medical decisions align with the parent and are not under the school’s jurisdiction – whether the School Board or the superintendent."