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Hoffman: Ducey lifting mask mandate in Arizona schools will cause tension

Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Kathy Hoffman speaks the latest Arizona coronavirus update during a news conference Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s schools chief said Tuesday that Gov. Doug Ducey’s order rescinding the requirement of masks in schools will cause tension between parents and staff.

“It causes a lot of tension between parents and teachers and principals when we really need to be working together to have our school environment feel safe and welcoming for all students,”  Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad, adding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends masks in schools.

The rescinded order still allows K-12 school districts and charter schools the right to institute and enforce masks and other policies to stop the spread of COVID-19. Many schools around the Valley posted Monday evening that masks would still be required, with some saying further guidance would be provided after a board meeting while others announced masks would be enforced through the end of the school year.

“(School districts) are facing some pushback from parents who are saying even though you sent this letter saying that you’re keeping the mask mandate, my child will not be wearing a mask,” Hoffman said. “I already know there is going to be contentious conversations not only in the classroom but at school board meetings because of this policy.”

Hoffman said Ducey’s office didn’t consult with her on the decision, adding a member of the governor’s team reached out mere minutes before the announcement was posted on Twitter.

“That’s not consulting us or asking what our thoughts are on this decision, it is to notify us that hey, just to give you a heads up, that we’re about to drop this bomb on our public education system,” Hoffman said.

She questioned why Ducey isn’t listening to anyone in the education field and why superintendents or charter leaders were not instead asked what was needed to finish the school year strong.

“We only have about one month remaining of the school year and what we want more than anything is a strong finish to the school year, we want to have stability and we are focusing on the wrong things right now,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman added lifting the order is a complete distraction from the real issues at hand and said she has not heard from Ducey or Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ since the decision was made to lift the mandate Monday.

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