More school districts making a decision regarding their mask policy. Peoria Unified board members ultimately decided to continue enforcing masks on campus. They say it was recommended by public health experts and the county.
Many came prepared - and not afraid - to share their voices.
“This right here, is doing nothing,” says Wendy Van Wie, while pointing at her mask.
Heather Rooks wishes masks were optional.
"It saddens me that they can’t smile at school, that you can’t see their smiles, you can’t see their faces anymore. It’s been a year and my son wanted to come tonight and tell everybody that he misses seeing his friends’ smile,” says Heather Rooks, Peoria USD
Peoria Unified School district held a board meeting on Thursday, discussing Governor Ducey’s announcement that districts could decide whether to continue requiring masks on campus. There was an emotional reaction from teachers and parents before the vote.
"We have to keep these masks on these kids to keep them safe,” says one Peoria USD parent.
“If I have a choice and Ducey gave me a choice, why do my children not have a choice?” says Van Wie.
The board released the latest district benchmarks, showing cases and percent positivity have increased over the past two weeks. There are also more than 200 students currently in quarantine district-wide. Although Peoria will keep masks, there are other school districts that made a different decision.
“It’s a little frustrating that we're going to an optional approach so close to the end of the school year,” says Donald Tripp, high school teacher, Mesa Public Schools.
Mesa Public Schools announced Thursday that they would be doing a phased approach: masks required over the next two weeks and if there are no major issues, masks will be optional after that. Teachers and the Mesa Education Association believed they were going to be part of the conversation but, they say, the decision came before that.
"They are citing the CDC and saying that vaccines are out but half of our school isn't eligible to get a vaccine because they aren't 16 years old. So, it sort of defeats the purpose of removing the masks when half of our population is still at risk,” says Tripp.
Mesa administrators say while their policy is changing, they will not hesitate to reinstate the mandate if there is a jump in cases.