Madison City Schools BoE votes against "Masking Matrix," mask requirement remains

The "Masking Matrix," is a proposed formula the district could use to determine when to shift from mask required to mask preferred.

Posted: Sep 30, 2021 11:28 PM
Updated: Oct 1, 2021 1:13 PM

The masking debate among parents in the Madison City School System is an ongoing battle. 

On Thursday, the battle came down to a school board decision. Ultimately, the school board voted against the superintendent's proposed "Masking Matrix" guidelines. 

The Masking Matrix was a proposed formula the district could use to determine when to shift from mask required to mask preferred. 

In Dr. Ed Nichols's proposal, he first outlined the recommendation to let the existing mask mandate expire on Oct. 4. Future requirements would be determined by the Masking Matrix guidelines. 

The proposed outline says on Oct. 11, if the student positivity rate is below .75%, then the district will be on a mask-preferred mandate. If the positivity rate is higher than .75%, masks will be required until the positivity rate ralls. 

Currently, the positivity rate at Madison City Schools is .27%. Despite the low district-wide positivity rate, many parents want the mask mandate to remain. 

Laura Harper, a parent in favor of the mask requirement, said, "It shouldn't be a popularity contest, it shouldn't be based off of people's opinions, it should be based on science."

Other parents, said their freedom is in jeopardy. 

"I’ll go by the rules, but you need to respect individuals' freedoms and individual rights," said Shema Rizo, a parent against the current mask requirement. 

During public comment, parents were able to raise their concerns on both sides of the masking policy. Public comment had 21 speakers: 12 parents for the mask requirement and nine against it. 

"It goes back to teachers being reprimanded and not speaking out. Students are being bullied and shamed, and I'm against that stuff. People died for our freedoms," said Rizo.  

Rizo, along with other parents, said children have faced bullying because they're not wearing the mask properly. Parents also said that many teachers are afraid to speak up because they're fearful of losing their job. 

Harper said Nichols' proposed "Masking Matrix" needs modifications to work. Multiple school board member said it's premature to put the presented "Masking Matrix" guidelines into effect right now. 

"If they come up with a matrix that meets us somewhere in the middle, provides the protection we need for the younger kids, and is based off of the actual numbers," said Harper. 

Harper said the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) should form a detailed outline for the school board to follow.

Nichols has previously said ADPH doesn't have set guidelines for the district to follow. He reiterated on Thursday night that it's frustrating not only for him but also for other superintendents in the state, that are looking for more medical guidance. 

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