Chandler Unified, Higley Unified decide against mask mandate amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Two East Valley school districts have decided against implementing a mask mandate amid a surge in new COVID-19 cases in Arizona.

Chandler Unified

During a meeting on the night of Aug. 19, Chandler Unified School District's board discussed options to mitigate COVID-19, but ultimately decided against implementing a mask mandate.

A mask mandate was voted down in a three-to-two vote. Board members, however, strongly recommended that students and staff wear masks.

Currently, there are 152 active COVID cases out of a little more than 49,000 students and staff in the district.

The vote was not the outcome some teachers had hoped for.

"58% of over 3,400 people surveyed said they want a mask mandate. That data was glossed over very quickly. Staff input was not given much value, and when your Governing Board doesn’t listen to what you've said, it's demoralizing," said Chandler Education Association President Katie Nash.

Higley Unified

Officials with Highley Unified made a decision similar to Chandler Unified's. During a governing board meeting, members took public comment from parents on both sides of the issue. They also made it clear the decision had nothing to do with Governor Doug Ducey's threat to withhold Federal funding from schools that implement mask mandates.

Gov. Ducey announces more funding for schools that follow "state laws"

Governor Doug Ducey has announced that Arizona schools that mandate mask wearing will be excluded from $163 million in federal funding. Meanwhile, district and charter schools offering in-person learning by Aug. 27 will be eligible if "state laws" are followed ,including the mask mandate ban signed into law in June.

"If you're not going to help us control the pandemic and save children from going to the hospital, being admitted to the ICU or even dying, at the very least get out of our way," said Dr. Wong.

Parents speak out as mask mandate debates continue

"Your mitigation strategy is meaningless without a mask mandate," said Dr. Joseph Wong, during a Chandler Unified board meeting a week ago. He has two children in the district, and said he wants CUSD to issue a mask mandate.

Even without a mask mandate at the present time, Dr. Wong's kids still wear masks to school.

"Even if the majority of their peers are not wearing masks, and that's a little bit disappointing and it's always a fear of mine that I would unknowingly bring it back or they may contract COVID from one of their peers," said Dr. Wong.

Other parents who don't agree on a mandate say this comes down to the principle of ‘my child, my choice.’

Figures show more COVID cases among young people

According to figures in Maricopa County, more than 4,100 kids have tested positive COVID.

"We are seeing younger age groups, particularly elementary school and middle school, those ages having more cases compared to older people," said Dr. Nick Staab with the Maricopa County Health Department.

According to Maricopa County, more than 100 schools currently have an active covid outbreak on campus, affecting nearly 1,400 students.

"More kids going back to in-person learning, as we have a large population of kids not eligible to get the vaccine yet, as we have different masking going on in schools, we will continue to see those outbreaks and continue to provide assistance to schools," said Dr. Staab.

LIST: Arizona school districts with mask requirements

LIST: Mask or no mask? Which retailers and restaurants are requiring face coverings

LIST: More than a dozen Arizona venues requiring COVID-19 vaccines, negative tests

Other Coronavirus Stories

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news

For the latest local news, download the FOX 10 News app

Sign up for FOX 10 email alerts, newsletters

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 Vaccination (In Spanish/En Español)