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BOE says “no” to mask mandate

The Decatur County Board of Education met on July 16 for their regular board meeting and to discuss the enhanced safety protocols they will be implementing to mitigate the spread of infection and viruses. During the work session, Superintendent Tim Cochran announced that they have decided not to mandate masks for all students and faculty, however masks will be provided to those who request one.

Cochran said all staff will be encouraged to wear masks when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain and students, along with bus rides will be encouraged to wear masks.

Cochran said the reason he chose not to require students to wear a mask is because it opens up the school to liability.

“If a student has COVID and takes off his mask in a teacher’s class and another student gets, it’s a liability on a teacher and the district for not following the mandate set by the district,” Cochran explained.

The BOE agreed with Cochran and finalized the decision to not mandate masks for students or faculty.

However, not all faculty was on board.

Bainbridge High School librarian, Claudia Montague spoke out in favor of a mask mandate during the BOE meeting, following the work session.

Montague referenced a recent Bill Nye science video that demonstrated the importance of wearing a mask.

“Mask are the number one way to prevent the transmission of COVID to people,” Montague said. “I would like to see a mandated mask policy for school to start.”

Montague acknowledged that Gov. Brian Kemp made the executive decision to not mandate masks for the state of Georgia, but she pointed out that school boards are allowed to override that decision for their school district and require that masks be worn during the school day.

Montague said she is aware that Decatur County does not have as many cases as other areas, but she, along with several other teachers travel in from Tallahassee, where COVID cases have risen tremendously.

“I as 51 year-old, who raises two children myself would feel more comfortable with everyone wearing a mask,” she said. “A mask doesn’t protect the wearer, but protects everyone else from getting it.”

Montague explained that cost is not an issue and she is aware that are women who are willing to sew masks for the school, but there is no reason to not implement masks.

Board Chairman, Keith Lyle thanked Montague for her input, but Cochran ultimately decided a mandate would not be put in place.