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Union Public Schools Board Approves Mask Mandate

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Another Tulsa school district is implementing a mask requirement.

The Union Public Schools Board voted 4–0 in a special meeting Friday in favor of mask mandates that apply to all students, employees and visitors while indoors on school property. The mandates kick in Wednesday but allow medical and religious exemptions, and people can opt out on the basis of "strongly held personal reasons."

Superintendent Dr. Kirt Hartzler recommended the mandates earlier this week. Board member Dr. Chris McNeil was absent Friday.

Union spokesman Chris Payne said the district has more cases and exposures right now than during the winter peak, and the district has come close to shutting down because there almost weren’t enough teachers — or, on one day last week, bus drivers.

"We were able to manage, but we've had some real close calls. And you know, it just takes a certain number of adults to be able to — have to have a certain number of adults available to run school or it just doesn't work," Payne said.

Payne said several parents have asked for a mask requirement, often because their kids have health problems that put them at greater risk of severe cases of COVID-19.

"It's been a difficult decision for parents, I know, on feeling whether or not their child was safe. And we just — you know, bottom line for us is we want to keep their education moving forward, and we want everybody to be healthy and protected," Payne said.

Union’s mask mandates do not have expiration dates. The board will repeal them when data indicates it’s appropriate.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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