Higley USD governing board President Kristina Reese said the district will follow the law on mask mandates but is encouraging their use inside district buildings.

“When you cannot socially distance, we are asking, encouraging, highly recommending that everyone wear a mask inside our buildings,” Reese said during the board member comments period of its meeting Aug. 11. “We know this is only part of mediation. However, it is a strategy that helps.”

Reese said the board has received many emails encouraging it to break the law, passed by the Legislature with the budget and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, that banned mask mandates in schools. Reese said if the district put a mandate in, it had no means to enforce it.

She said board members said they also had received many emails wanting the district to uphold the law.

Whatever personal choices are made to protect students from COVID-19, Reese said she hoped to see no shaming of people for their decisions.

“What we saw toward the end of the school year last year, when masks became optional, was really sad to me,” she said. “Please just be kind.”

Reese also urged that students who showed symptoms stay home and that students awaiting test results or with family members awaiting test results also stay home.

She also noted that the board had given Superintendent Dawn Foley the authority to make changes to the mitigation plan.

“We did not do this to pass the buck, throw her under the bus or get the heat off of us,” Reese said. “We did this so that she can make immediate changes and change with what is currently happening. Not having to wait to post a meeting and ensure that she can get at least three board members together to meet quorum, changes can happen faster.”

Vice President Jill Wilson and board member Michelle Anderson expressed support for Reese’s comments.

Two members of the public, speaking during the public comment period, urged the board to adopt additional mitigation strategies to address the current outbreak of the coronavirus delta variant.

Other items

  • The board reviewed the results of this year’s summer school. Data showed 563 students attended summer school between June 7-23 at the district’s three host sites. For credit-recovery classes, students recovered 344 class credits.

  • The board voted in support of the Arizona School Board Association’s draft of its political agenda for 2022. The priorities were to adequately and equitably fund district schools to at least the national median per pupil funding, preserve and strengthen local control, improve outcomes for all students and require public accountability for taxpayer dollars spent on education. However, Reese and board member Amy Kaylor expressed surprise that all measures about managing the impact of COVID-19 on public schools were removed from the political agenda. Board member Michelle Anderson was voted to be the board’s representative to the ASBA conference with Tiffany Shultz as the alternate.