3 area school districts continue face-mask mandates for those indoors after court ruling

Kyrene, Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union High School districts were quick to continue face-mask mandates on their campuses, primarily for those indoors, after a Maricopa County Superior Court judge on Sept. 27 declared unconstitutional a law that was about to go into effect banning such mandates. –wranglernews.com file photo

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Hours before a law banning public-school face-covering was to go into effect, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that the prohibition was unconstitutional, freeing the schools to require staff, students and visitors to don face masks while on campus.

Judge Katherine Cooper

Judge Katherine Cooper’s ruling deemed the Republican lawmakers’ bill an example of “log-rolling,” which is the practice of amassing multiple subjects into one bill so that a vote to support the bill constitutes a vote for all measures within it.

“The Court has considered Plaintiff’s claim that SB1819 violates the single-subject rule. Yes, it does,” Cooper’s 16-page ruling states.

The final page of her ruling contains the admonition that all those entering a court facility in Maricopa County must wear a mask or face covering at all times while in the facility.

Kyrene, Tempe Elementary and Tempe Union High School districts were quick to react to Cooper’s decision, affirming facemask mandates on their campuses under specific conditions, primarily for those indoors.

Kyrene Superintendent Laura Toenjes said that the ruling opened the opportunity for the district to review its other mitigation efforts, as well.

Kyrene Superintendent Laura Toenjes

“Kyrene remains committed to following all federal, state and local health-agency guidance to the extent possible and within the bounds of the law,” Toenjes said. “Kyrene will continue to require face coverings indoors only when a school’s ZIP code is experiencing ‘substantial’ or ‘high’ community transmission.

“This week’s court ruling, ensuring Kyrene can continue to require face coverings, opens up the opportunity for the district to review other mitigation strategies. For example, knowing we can require face coverings for visitors gives us more flexibility to welcome visitors and volunteers on our campuses. This is so important, as we know our community is critical to the success of our students and schools.”

A statement on the district’s website, Kyrene.org, says: “Face coverings are not required outside. Face coverings remain mandatory on school buses and district transportation, per federal order. Kyrene’s plans remain flexible to respond to the changing landscape of the pandemic while continuing to offer the excellence in education that is the hallmark of Kyrene.”

Tempe El Superintendent James Driscoll

A Sept. 28 letter to parents from Tempe Elementary School District Superintendent James Driscoll states: “The Maricopa County COVID-19 Data Dashboard has identified our school attendance area as a high-transmission area, putting our students, staff and community at greater risk of contracting COVID-19. Face coverings will continue to be required for all students, staff and visitors while indoors. Face coverings are not required while outdoors. We will continue to monitor this situation and update you on any new changes.”

“We value the many differing viewpoints in our community,” Driscoll’s letter continues. “There is nothing that we cannot overcome together when we reach for a common goal. Our common goal is to make this a successful year of learning for all Tempe Elementary students.”

TUHSD Superintendent Kevin Mendivil

Tempe Union High School District Superintendent Kevin Mendivil said that the district will continue with all currently implemented health and safety procedures, including masking while indoors.

“We will continue to follow this case closely as it makes its way through the courts and we remain committed to following all state and federal laws as we work to keep our students, staff and greater community safe,” Mendivil said.

Read Judge Cooper’s full ruling by clicking here.

Joyce Coronel
Joyce Coronel has been interviewing and writing stories since she was 12, and she’s got the scrapbooks to prove it. The mother of five grown sons and native of Arizona is passionate about local news and has been involved in media since 2002, coming aboard at Wrangler News in 2015. Joyce believes strongly that newspapers are a lifeline to an informed public and a means by which neighbors can build a sense of community—vitally important in today’s complex world.

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