Parents, faculty speak on mask mandate at Oxford School District

Published 3:29 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Concerned Parents and faculty spoke to the Oxford School District’s Board of Trustees on Monday, offering their differing viewpoints regarding the district’s latest extension to its mask mandate.

During a special meeting on Friday, the Board voted to extend the district’s mask mandate through Sept. 15 which aligns with Governor Tate Reeves’ latest State of Emergency due to the latest surge of COVID-19’s Delta variant.

Dr. Johsua Eyler, who has a child in fourth grade at Della Davidson Elementary, spoke in favor of the mask mandate and asked the OSD Board to consider extending the mandate on Sept. 15 until the Mississippi State Department of Health amend their guidance for schools, which currently recommend masks be worn.

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“None of us, not a single person in this room, asked to live through a pandemic. But this is especially true for our children,” Eyler said. “They need us, and leaders like you, to fight for them and for their health and safety.”

Tyler Kuntz, the orchestra instructor at Oxford High School who was suspended two days for refusing to follow the original mask mandate, also spoke to the Board. Kuntz questioned the continued use of requiring students to wear masks and the board having a special meeting to extend the mandate.

“We don’t even know at this point what the effect the masks have been on our kids, insulating them from their immune systems from being active they way they need to,” Kuntz said. “But I do know this. That if we keep using this line that masks help and certainly don’t hurt, we’re greatly mistaken. Because we don’t know what we’re playing with at this point. It seems quite possible we’re making a terrible mistake assuming that this is a safe option and we’ll find out once flu season returns.”

Prior to the meeting on Monday, OSD released it’s COVID-19 update for the week of Aug. 16-22. There were 17 total new cases of COVID-19 reported with Oxford Middle School having the most cases among students with four. There were also 85 students quarantined last week with OMS once again having the highest number with 24.

Since school began there has been three percent of OSD’s student population quarantined. There are 60 students set to come out of quarantine next week.

Last week, the Mississippi State Board of Education voted to allow the option for schools to transition to hybrid learning through Oct. 31 to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Superintendent Bradley Roberson mentioned the idea of hybrid learning during Monday’s meeting, saying no such plans are being discussed but nothing is off the table.

“Right now, as we currently stand, I don’t see the need for that change (to hybrid learning),” Roberson said. “I will certainly continue to monitor our case numbers and quarantines. We will address it to make adjustments if a need arises.”