Not all attendees were masked up at the Arizona School Boards Association’s (ASBA) Annual Conference last week, despite having a mask mandate in place. ASBA fought for local school districts to be able to establish mask mandates; they joined a lawsuit that prevailed against Governor Doug Ducey’s mask mandate ban.
Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams was one leader spotted maskless during the Superintendents Division Business Meeting. In addition to ASBA’s conference mandate, most of Williams’ school districts have mask mandates in place for their students: Ajo Unified, Amphitheater Unified, Catalina Foothills Unified, Flowing Wells Unified, Sunnyside Unified School District, Tanque Verde Unified, and Tucson Unified.
A number of school officials were also maskless as they recorded testimonies for ASBA. One of them was Red Mesa Unified School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Amy Fuller, former interim superintendent for Scottsdale Unified School District. Fuller’s district currently requires face masks at all times indoors.
Unlike the county superintendent, Tanque Verde Unified Governing Board Member Anne Velosa wore a mask for her testimony.
AZ Free Newsreported in September that a number of attendees at an ASBA conference also didn’t mask up. ASBA spokespersons explained that they had a loosely enforced mask mandate in place, and that the individuals were from various districts with different beliefs on masking.
Parents have voiced concerns about their children’s social development, or the quality of education for those with special needs or disabilities. Current experts on the controversial social-emotional learning (SEL) admit that they don’t have complete studies on the impact of masking on children’s development. However, they speculated that educators could adjust somehow to work around the masks. Feasible solutions haven’t been presented for students who rely on seeing mouths to learn, such as deaf or hearing-impaired students — though some suggest clear masks, those present their own issues like fogging up.
Devastating. That’s how it felt earlier this week when the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s ruling in Arizona School Boards Association v. State of Arizona. This decision strikes down critical reforms contained in a series of Budget Reconciliation Bills passed by lawmakers and signed by Governor Ducey earlier this year.
After another long week of defending his decision to impose mask mandates for Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) students, Governing Board President Jann-Michael Greenburg hung out at a bar maskless last Saturday.
When asked, Greenburg told other reporters via email that confusion over his enjoying a maskless night at the bar while imposing mask mandates at SUSD was nothing more than a “baseless attack.”
“This video is another baseless attack by people whose agenda is to destroy public education and discourage people from serving,” said Greenburg. “It won’t work.”
The CDC cautions that pregnant women are at more of an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Just a few days earlier, Greenburg cursed at concerned parents during a board meeting. Greenburg later apologized, saying he let his frustration get the better of him.
“Jesus f***ing Christ, people,” muttered Greenburg on the hot mic.
Greenburg hasn’t been the only pro-mask mandate public education leader caught enjoying a maskless social life as of late. Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman attended a baby shower maskless and without adhering to social distancing. None of the other guests wore masks or socially distanced themselves, either.
After months advocating for school mask mandates, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman neglected to mask up for an indoors baby shower this past weekend. Hoffman has been a staunch advocate for universal masking.
Just one month ago, Hoffman issued a formal statement decrying Governor Doug Ducey’s ban on K-12 mask mandates. Hoffman sided with CDC guidance, which asks that all individuals wear masks – even those who’ve been fully vaccinated.
“We know masks work and, with rising cases, they’re a vital part of our effort to reduce everyone’s COVID-19 risks,” wrote Hoffman. “I encourage teachers, administrators, and families to listen to the CDC and take individual action to keep themselves and each other safe by wearing a mask during in-person school. Students, teachers, and parents are ready to get back to in-person learning, but it takes all of us.”
All of us, that is, except Hoffman. It appears that Hoffman’s personal life doesn’t align with the version she offers the public eye – even Hoffman’s Twitter and Facebook profiles have her wearing a mask.
The same weekend of Hoffman’s maskless party, another prominent politician and masking advocate, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was seen on video maskless at a fundraiser luncheon. Like Hoffman’s experience at the “Bee Tea” baby shower, neither Pelosi or any of the other guests caught on camera wore masks or were socially distant.
Both Chandler Unified School District (CUSD) and Tanque Verde Unified School District (TVUSD) declined to join the growing list of schools reinstating a mask mandate. For now, masks will remain optional at both districts.
During special meetings on Thursday devoted solely to COVID-19 mitigation strategies, the governing boards of CUSD and TVUSD both voted against reinstating a mask mandate.
For CUSD, the vote was close: 3 to 2. Board members Lara Bruner and Lindsay Love both voted in favor of restoring a mask mandate. For TVUSD, the board was decisively against reinstating a mask mandate: 4 to 1. Only board member Vieri Tenuta voted yes.
The legislature passed a law in June intending to ban mask mandates in schools for the summer and fall school years. Those schools reinstating their mask mandates have argued that the ban doesn’t apply until September 29. That’s the date that a judge has ruled the state’s mask mandate ban was active, citing Arizona law prohibiting statutes from taking effect until 90 days after a legislative session ends.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner issued the ruling in the case of a biology teacher challenging Phoenix Union High School District’s (PXU) mask mandate.
The CUSD Governing Board attached a copy of the PXU ruling for consideration. They also included several announcements on education funding from Governor Doug Ducey – one of which concerned the $163 million in grants only available to schools that continue in-person learning for the rest of the year and follow all state laws.
By that latter stipulation, Ducey meant the mask mandate ban he signed into law in June. The governor and other supporters argue that the law took effect months ago based on a retroactivity clause.
Approximately 20 other districts, private schools, charter schools, and Montessori schools have reinstated mask mandates.
The school districts are: Alhambra Elementary School District, Amphitheater School District, Catalina Foothills School District, Creighton School District, Flagstaff Unified School District, Glendale Elementary School District, Kyrene School District, Littleton Elementary School District, Madison School District, Miami Unified School District, Nogales Unified School District, Osborn School District, Peoria Unified School District, Phoenix Elementary School District, Phoenix Union High School District, Roosevelt Elementary School District, Tucson Unified School District, and Washington Elementary School District.
Private schools requiring masks are Brophy College Preparatory and Salpointe Catholic High School, whereas charter schools requiring masks are Arizona School for the Art and Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. The two Montessori schools requiring masks currently are Haven Montessori School and Khalsa Montessori School.
At least one other school district will decide on reinstating a mask mandate Friday – Marana Unified School District (MUSD). The district also cited Judge Warner’s recent ruling as rationale for considering the matter of restoring mask mandates.