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Phoenix Union receiving support and push back on mask mandate

Posted at 11:02 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 02:07:41-04

PHOENIX — The governing board for Phoenix Union High School District had a regular board meeting Thursday evening. Although the mask mandate was not on the agenda, it was talked about a lot.

Phoenix Union has paved the way for other districts when it comes to mask enforcement regardless of state law.

“You saved lives. There are people who would've died if it wasn't the actions of this district, the great employees, the staff that went above and beyond to ensure students and staff are taken care of,” says Steve Gallardo, board member of the Phoenix Union High School District.

Phoenix Union parents, teachers and graduates expressed their thoughts by phone during public comment. All but one person said they were proud of the district's bold actions.

“I'm appalled at all these people that think it's OK that a school district can determine what a parent's rights are. It's appalling,” says one parent.

“I would say keep marching on and do what is right for our predominantly poor, black and brown multi-generational households,” says a Phoenix Union graduate.

Many are hoping the mask mandate won’t be overturned in court. Otherwise, it could make them rethink switching schools or a virtual option.

“At the end of the day, we want to feel safe. My child, before returning to school, he broke out and he said, ‘Mom, I don't know if I want to go to school.’ You know, it's a tough…it's a tough place to be. It's a tough place to be right now,” says parent Denisse Barajas.

Some Phoenix Union students even started a mask support group called AZMaskateers on Instagram. They hope they can also create change by suggesting more mitigation efforts, for instance: social distancing with directional arrows in hallways.

“We have to go upstairs and as well, there's other students coming downstairs. So, I feel like there's a lot of gathering going on,” says seniors at Metro Tech H.S. Julissa Quezada & Jhoanna Padilla.

English teacher Theresa Pulido says the district’s mask mandate is just one step in a multi-step approach.

“I'm a teacher but I'm also a parent and I feel responsible every day for the students in my classroom,” says Theresa Pulido, a teacher at Metro Tech.

She believes more information should be out there for parents to be well informed.

“How is information going to be disbursed to parents when there's a positive case? Are they going to be told when somebody in the classroom is positive - or in the school - because in many cases, they are only going to find out if that student is within six feet of their students,” says Pulido.