School board votes to remove mask mandate

Published 7:00 pm Friday, November 12, 2021

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VIDALIA — Concordia Parish School Board members decided to make mask-wearing a choice of the students during their Thursday meeting.

On Oct. 26, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced he would lift Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate in all settings except for K-12 schools, however, school districts are able to decide whether or not their students would be required to wear masks, Superintendent Toyua Watson said to the board Tuesday.

To decide how to approach the matter, school officials said surveys were conducted for each school in the district. Those surveys revealed that 57 percent of the parish wanted to get rid of the mask requirement and 43 percent wanted to keep it, board member Lisette Forman said.

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Watson noted that in some schools in the parish, more respondents wanted to keep the masks than not while other schools overwhelmingly voted to get rid of the mask mandate.

Watson said if the district continues to require students to wear masks, they could shorten the amount of time they would have to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure.

Unmasked students who are exposed must quarantine five to seven days and must procure a negative COVID-19 test result before returning to school.

“I would make a motion that we throw masks away,” Forman said. “That is no hidden agenda of mine. I do not like them and I would move that we unmask the kids.”

Board member Rickey Raven seconded her motion, however, the motion failed. Forman, Raven and Warren Enterkin all voted yes and the Rev. Raymond Riley, Derrick Carson, Dorothy Parker and Angela Hayes all voted no and board president Fred Butcher abstained.

“I think it would be worth trying — and I know that we try to be consistent — but I would suggest areas that want to wear them, let them wear them and areas that don’t, let them not wear them and see how it works out,” Raven said.

After some discussion, Parker offered another motion that masks would be “highly recommended but not required” with the stipulations that the school board would revisit the matter after observing the changes in COVID-19 cases in the school district and receive weekly updates.

This motion passed with Enterkin, Parker, Carson, Forman, Butcher and Raven all voting yes and Riley and Hayes voting no.

“These kids need to wear masks,” Riley said. “Many of them are not vaccinated.”

The board decided they would revisit the issue on Feb. 10, after the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays or sooner if the number of cases deem it necessary.

In other matters during Thursday’s meeting, the district awarded Sidney A. Murray Jr. Citizenship Awards, to students in Grade 6 through 8, received an update on the new Monterey High School Gym, which is projected to be complete by April 30.