Schools react to Gov. Ducey's decision to rescind school mask mandate requirements

Face mask with Arizona flag (file)

Officials with a number of charter schools and school districts in Arizona are reacting to Gov. Ducey's decision on April 19 to rescind an order that requires schools in Arizona to implement a mask mandate for its students and staff members.

Related: Gov. Doug Ducey rescinds order that directs schools in Arizona to require masks for students

Gov. Ducey announced his decision to lift the requirement, which was rolled out as part of an Executive Order that was issued in July 2020, on his verified Twitter page.

"Nearly 2 million Arizonans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with many teachers and school faculty now fully vaccinated after being some of the first in line for vaccine prioritization," the Governor wrote. "Teachers, families, and students have acted responsibly to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect one another, and our school leaders are ready to decide if masks should be required on their campuses."

The executive order, which also contains other provisions on education during the pandemic, was set to expire on June 30, 2021.

Charter school chain has made masks optional

Legacy Traditional School

Legacy Traditional School (From Archive)

Officials with Legacy Traditional Schools, which operates about 20 campuses and teaches 20,000 students across the Valley, announced in a memo to parents and staff that it is now their choice if they (or their children) want to continue to wear masks at school or not.

"We've heard from many parents and teachers that have said 'thank you, thank you' for allowing this decision to be ours, and putting these decisions in our hands," said Legacy Traditional Schools Superintendent Nicole Kirkley.

Legacy Traditional Schools was one of the first districts to open for in-person learning in August 2020.

"We included in our mitigation plan at that time that masks would be optional until as soon as local or state mandates were lifted," said Kirkley.

The charter school chain is still enforcing several mitigation measures, such as frequent handwashing, sanitizing, and distancing. It also continues to offer virtual learning.

At one of the Legacy Traditional Schools campuses, it appeared that several students have opted to not wear masks while playing outside.

"We've had a few staff members who expressed concerns," said Kirkley. "They're working with their campus principal to alleviate those concerns."

Kirkley says about 80% of its students attend school in person, and unlike many districts, Legacy Traditional Schools saw an increase in student enrollment during the past year, which has allowed them to hire more staff.

"The most important thing is respecting both sides, and respecting that the feelings are real on both sides of the mask debate," said Kirkley. "We’re not getting involved with that and we will let the parents be able to make the best choice for their student."

Legacy Traditional Schools officials say during the next school year, it will continue to offer families the option of virtual learning.

Other school districts will still require masks

Despite Legacy Traditional Schools' decision to make masks option, a number of public school districts in Arizona, including some outside of the Phoenix area, have announced that their mask requirements will remain in place for now.

Cartwright School District

In a Facebook post, officials with Cartwright School District say their mask policy will remain in place until the district's governing board rescinds it.

Flagstaff Unified School District

The district said it will continue to follow the plan and policies adopted by its governing board that requires masks to be worn by students, staff, and visitors.

Higley Unified School District

On its website, officials with Higley Unified School District say they will continue to require students and staff members to wear masks during the school day and while on school district property, until the district's Governing Board has a chance to review the policy.

J.O. Combs Unified School District

The school district announced on its Facebook page that effective immediately, masks will be recommended but not required.

Legacy Traditional Schools

Officials announced masks are optional and families can choose to opt-out for online learning.

Paradise Valley Unified School District

FOX 10 has learned that Paradise Valley Unified School District will keep its mask requirements in place.

Peoria Unified School District

The district announced masks will be optional inside and outside all school campuses and facilities beginning May 24. "The district also hopes to begin the 2021-22 school year with as much normalcy as possible," the district said in a statement.

Phoenix Union High School District

In a tweet, officials with Phoenix Union High School District say their mask policy will remain in effect for all students, staff and visitors, as "districts still have the right to enforce masks and other mitigation policies in their schools."

Scottsdale Unified School District

"It is the expectation that students and staff will continue to wear masks while on school property, with the previously noted exceptions for recess and physical education, in order to ensure we end the school year strong and in-person," read a portion of a statement posted to the district's website.

Tempe Union High School District

In a statement posted to the district's website, officials say they will continue to ask their students and staff members to wear masks during the school day and at all times while on school district property.

"I know we all look forward to the day that we don’t have to wear masks anymore, but today is not that day," read a portion of the statement.

Tucson Unified School District

Officials with Tucson Unified School District announced on their website that the district will not change its face mask requirements.