In anticipation of a new bill’s passing that establishes permissible mask mandate thresholds, the Wilson County Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to remove the mask requirements during its meeting on Wednesday.

The matter comes as the school board sought to stay out in front of the legislation from Nashville, which passed to the Governor’s office but remained unsigned by Gov. Bill Lee. It may not actually matter if Lee signs it though as no action for 10 days yields the same result, with the bill becoming a law.

That bill prohibits the establishment of mask requirements in any Tennessee school district unless two criteria are met. First, there must be a rolling, average 14-day COVID-19 infection rate of at least 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents while the state is under a state of emergency.

In such an event, mask mandates would not be guaranteed as the decision to implement masks has to go through a school’s principal first. That principal would then request a mandate to the school board, where if it was approved would only apply to the specific school for no greater than two weeks.

The decision to transition the rule to fit the forthcoming bill is just the school board’s way of staying out in front of the state law.

“You’re doing some stop-gap action here,” said Wilson County Attorney Mike Jennings. “I don’t think there is any doubt the law is going to come into play, but it’s not in play right now, and the board won’t meet again until after it comes into play.”

Wilson County Director of Schools Jeff Luttrell added, “What we’re doing now, if this new bill becomes law, puts us in line with state law.”

The discussion transitioned toward specific language in the rules that had been regulating face coverings thus far into the school year.

Luttrell, explained that he was basing his decision to include the language “optional” on what the COVID numbers are today.

“When we started school, masks were optional ... that was my language, “ said Luttrell. “However, where our numbers are at, we are back where we were when school started. That’s why I’m recommending making masks optional.”

Even after the school went to a mandate, there was an opt-out clause. With this new ruling, there will be no need for an opt-out clause. However, students will still be allowed to wear masks in the classroom should they so choose.

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