Phoenix Union High School District to disregard state law, require masks
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Union High School District will disregard state law and require masks indoors regardless of vaccination status when classes start next week.
The district announced Friday it would enforce its board-adopted mask mandate for all staff, students and visitors when the fall semester begins Monday.
“Phoenix Union High School District has made it very clear that we want to bring back in-person learning and when we come back, we want to stay back,” Superintendent Chad Geston said Friday during a press conference.
A law passed as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget bans mask mandates in Arizona — including in schools — and is retroactive to June 30.
Gov. Doug Ducey has been steadfast about maintaining policy even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated guidelines this week to recommend masks in all public indoor spaces.
Thirteen of Arizona’s 15 counties, including Maricopa, home to nearly two-thirds of the state’s population, fall into the substantial or high categories on the CDC’s map.
“Gov. Ducey believes the decision by Phoenix Union requiring masks has no teeth. It’s not allowed under Arizona law. It’s unenforceable,” Ducey’s office said in a statement to KTAR News. “Arizona is not anti-mask, we’re anti-mask mandate.”
“Ultimately, this is about personal responsibility and parental choice — something Arizona has long-supported.”
The CDC on Tuesday reversed course on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors, including students returning to class, in parts of the U.S. classified as having substantial or high transmission.
Phoenix Union said district members have pushed to follow the recently updated health guidelines.
“Recently, we have heard from our staff, students, and families that they want us to realign our mitigation practices with the guidelines and recommendations of national and local health agencies,” the district said.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday she’s on Ducey’s side when it comes to wanting kids back in classrooms, but a state ban on face mask and COVID-19 vaccine mandates is already hindering that goal.
A rural Arizona district has already had to shutter in-person learning temporarily this semester because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Ash Fork School District, in consultation with the Yavapai County health department, closed campuses for the time being less than a week after classes started July 22.