Students, staff embrace mask rule as classes start at Phoenix Union schools
PHOENIX — Students and staff began the fall semester Monday at Phoenix Union High School District, where leaders defied Gov. Doug Ducey and instituted a mandatory mask mandate to protect against the spreading COVID-19 delta variant.
Christian, a junior at Central High School, said he was excited to be back in the classroom and was fine with having to wear a mask while indoors.
“I have nothing against the mask honestly. I feel like it’s better for our safety,” Christian said. “It’s preventing COVID from being spread.”
BACK TO SCHOOL: Phoenix Union High School District heads back to the classroom today for in person learning. Students are asked to wear masks defying @dougducey’s orders. Every student and teacher I spoke with this morning is in favor of wearing masks. @KTAR923 pic.twitter.com/MOr0ZCIodr
— Ali Vetnar (@Ali_Vetnar) August 2, 2021
The district announced Friday that masks would be required indoors regardless of vaccination status upon the return of classes.
“I thought we were going to come to school without masks,” Evette, a freshman at Central, said. “I think it’s good for protection, even for people who are vaccinated.”
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.
Phoenix Union Superintendent Chad Geston said Friday the district went against the law in an effort to keep students in classrooms, a decision Ducey said had no merit.
“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 on Friday. “Arizona is not anti-mask, we’re anti-mask mandate.”
“Ultimately, this is about personal responsibility and parental choice — something Arizona has long-supported.”
Phoenix Union said that district members pushed to follow the recently updated health guidelines by the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend indoor masking in most situations despite vaccination status.
“I think it’s great,” Cecilia Peterson, talent director for the district, said. “It’ll keep our students and staff safe.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.