Students in the Parker Schools will now be required to wear face masks, but there are several exemptions included in the mandate.
The Governing Board of the Parker Unified School District approved a mask mandate for the schools at a special meeting Oct. 18 at Players Ninth Street Youth Center. There are four exemptions to the mask requirement: a mental condition, a medical condition, or a disability that would preclude someone from wearing a mask, or “personal reasons.”
The goal of the mandate is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.
Board members Randy Hartless, Amelia Flores and Marlon Short voted in favor of the mask requirement. Deanna Beaver and Delores Ferris voted against it.
The vote came after a lengthy public hearing on a mask mandate. Arguments for the mandate included the need to protect the health of children, their families, and the community. Those opposed to the mandate said face masks should be a matter of choice, that mask mandates violated civil liberties, and that research showed masks were ineffective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes had said they wanted the school district to adopt a face mask mandate. As part of their ‘Safer at Home’ order, face masks are required in public areas on Tribal land.
The Tribes said they had the right to ask this as the schools are within the boundaries of their reservation, and the district’s actions affect Tribal members. They made it clear Parker High School would not be allowed to use Joe Bush Stadium, which is on Tribal land, for football games until the district had a mask mandate.
The Parker School District had previously mandated masks at Le Pera Elementary School, which is located on Tribal land south of Poston. They were also mandated on school busses, which often travel on roads on the reservation.
Earlier this year, Arizona public school districts were barred from requiring masks for their students. This law was struck down Sept. 27, by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper. On Sept. 30, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s request to stay Cooper’s ruling.
Hartless said the issue here was the health and safety of students and their families. The football field, he said, was a side issue.