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Jenks public schools suspends mask requirement

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Jenks Public Schools

The Jenks Public Schools Board on Monday voted to suspend a mask requirement for students, employees and visitors.

Since mid-September, they were all required to wear masks while indoors on district property or on buses, though people could opt out. District Communications Director Rob Loeber said the board is considering local data in these decisions.

"I think they felt comfortable with the position we're in right now as a district. Given the numbers in the community, hospitalizations being down, they felt like they could suspend this requirement and make it fully optional," Loeber said.

When the mask requirement was put into place, Jenks had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19, more than four times as many as the district had Friday. Last week, Tulsa County recorded 779 new cases, the lowest number since mid-July, just before the Delta variant fueled a surge in cases across the state.

Loeber said a significant number of students and employees chose not to wear masks anyway, citing religious, medical or personal objections.

"We had about, I would say, 20% of our student population that decided to opt out, and we had about 25% of our employees who decided to opt out. And so, saying 'mandate' is almost a little bit too strong because there was always that option for people if you did not want to do it, you could fill out that form and that would be honored," Loeber said.

The Jenks school board can reinstitute the mask requirement if local conditions warrant, though people who have previously opted out will continue to be exempt.

The district will continue providing free masks to those who request them.