State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said she is encouraging students and teachers to wear masks at schools during the upcoming school year and urged people to get vaccinated if they are eligible.
Spearman made the comments at the Department of Education Office during a news conference on Wednesday. Those with her at the lectern also wore masks, and Spearman only took her mask off when she stepped up to the microphones.
The comments also come a day after the Centers for Disease Control released new guidelines urging people to wear masks indoors in areas of high or significant transmission.
“I’m taking responsibility on to wear my mask as the CDC has directed us getting that info we’re trying to get information out to our district support them with all the type of equipment, hand sanitizers all the, all the cleaning materials that they need,” Spearman said.
Last year Spearman had a mask mandate for schools, but the legislature included a proviso, a one year law attached to this year’s state budget, that prohibited schools from putting in mask mandates.
“Our interpretation is that you cannot require in a school facility to mask or put mask mandates. That’s that’s our interpretation,” Spearman said.
Districts have received assistance to buy necessary cleaning supplies and plexiglass dividers,among other things, to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“They can make that choice whether they want to put that back in, and of course they are strongly recommending, as I am, that we do wear our masks but it is a personal decision and we cannot require, Spearman said.
Contact tracing will continue as well to allow unvaccinated students and staff quarantine if they come in contact with someone who has COVID
Spearman said she expects to see an increase in case numbers as people have been traveling on vacation and people are coming back to school.
But the Republican schools superintendent urged people to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I would strongly encourage folks to get vaccinated, I would strongly encourage families with children who are eligible to talk with their doctors talk with their pediatricians,” Spearman said.
“As I told the group yesterday, a group of my Republican friends, President Trump and his family have been vaccinated. He worked hard to get this vaccine out to the people and he has been vaccinated and I would hope they take his lead and become vaccinated. It would help us stop the spread.”
Spearman pleaded with people to wear a mask and take the virus seriously.
“It will help us to return to school and have a normal year. If not, we will have lots of disruptions,” Spearman said.