Posted Date: 09/14/2021
The Board of Education today unanimously passed a mask mandate for Union Public Schools, effective Wednesday, September 15 – with exemptions for medical, religious, or strongly held personal reasons – for all students, staff and visitors while indoors on district property.
Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler said he made the recommendation for a mask mandate because of data showing Union’s number of COVID-19 positive cases has already exceeded peak numbers that the district experienced last winter, and because of the district’s difficulty in maintaining adequate staff levels necessary to keep school safely in operation. See previous story.
In his remarks to the Board, Hartzler said, “Let me first say, I had hoped that I would not be having to call this special Board meeting for the purpose of requesting a mask mandate. But, as I have said from the start of this school year that if our data warranted, we would have to consider additional measures to address the spread of COVID. Unfortunately, this week our COVID numbers hit an all-time high of 181 positive cases for both students and staff. This number is significantly higher than our highest positive case count of 118 at the peak of the pandemic last school year. It is truly our desire to keep our students in school. But, this is not going to be possible if we do not stem the spread of COVID.
“To this end, I firmly believe in the science and what our health professionals are telling us about the importance of wearing masks as a mitigation measure. I fully recognize the debates that are ongoing regarding masks. Perhaps time will provide us all with more clarity. But time is not something we have if we are to keep our students in school and provide them with the optimal learning environment. The safety of our students and staff at school rests squarely on my shoulders. Thus, our primary objective is the promotion of learning, but the most important thing we do is provide for the safety of our students and staff while at school. Therefore, it is my recommendation that the Board approve a mask mandate for all students and staff - with exemptions for medical, religious, or strongly held personal beliefs – effective Wednesday, September 15, 2021.”