Vote To Lift Union Public Schools Mask Mandate Fails


Tuesday, November 30th 2021, 9:16 pm


TULSA, Oklahoma -

UPDATE: The Union Public School board votes to keep its mask mandate for students in place until at least January.

The vote happened Tuesday at a special meeting school board meeting.

It wasn't a quick decision - there was a lot of back-and-forth discussion at the meeting as board members weighed the pros and cons of keeping in place their current mandate for a while longer.

Ultimately it came down to student safety amid new waves of COVID-19 uncertainty.

The proposal to re-assess and possibly get rid of mask requirements was brought in by Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler.

He says the district has seen a 72 percent drop in the number of positive cases.

But other board members like Dr. Christopher McNeil didn't want to make a change they'd regret in just a few short weeks with an expected increase in cases coming back from holidays.

Dr. McNeil says it's just not the right time - but he's glad the board's discussions stay civil.

"How easy it is to kind of go back and to want everything to be black and white. Because you know, it makes things simple. But this is not simple and being able to talk about this and understand each other's perspectives, that is exactly what society needs right now," he said.

The board will take another look at getting rid of mask requirements in January.

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The school board for Union Public Schools will decide Tuesday night whether or not it will suspend the mask mandate for students and staff.

If the mask mandate is suspended, the measure would go into effect immediately for all students and staff on any school property.

The special meeting is set to take place on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

Superintendent Kirt Hartzler said the district has had a steady decline in COVID-19 cases for several weeks. He told News On 6 that at last check, there were about 50 active cases, which is about a 72% decrease from the district's peak of 185 cases in early September.

Hartzler said if the mandate is lifted, teachers and staff will continue to monitor any new cases and make decisions as needed. If the cases rise again in the district, he said the board will consider reinstating the mandate and all previously approved opt-outs would still remain valid.

If the board votes to lift the mandate on Tuesday night, masks would no longer be required on school property as soon as Wednesday morning.