APS Special Board of Education approves universal mask mandate

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – All Albuquerque Public School students, staff and visitors will need to wear masks when school starts soon. The school board Wednesday voted 5-1 to require masks inside and on buses regardless if you’re vaccinated.


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Superintendent Scott Elder said the delta variant has added a whole new twist to re-entry they weren’t anticipating with the majority of the board saying it’s safest to follow the latest CDC guidance.

Some APS board members expressed they’re tired of all the back and forth surrounding re-entry plans. “Going over this debate over and over and over in reference to which science and which research to follow, it is just frustrating,” board member Elizabeth Armijo said.

The debate Wednesday was about whether everyone at APS regardless of vaccination status should be required to mask up this fall. “Let’s not make this political,” APS board member Yolanda Montoya-Cordova said. “We believe in science certain times but not always,” board member Peggy Muller-Aragon said.

If you ask Muller-Aragon if masks should be required, the answer is no. “I am upset again and just like last year when parents did not have a choice of sending their kids to school, they are now not given choices once again,” Muller-Aragon said.

However, the five other board members approved the plan to require masks with Superintendent Scott Elder citing concerns over the delta variant. “Delta is the dominant variant and spreads 225 percent faster than the original virus,” Elder said.

APS said all their positive cases in the past month have been vaccinated individuals. Some board members are concerned about breakthrough cases as well as students who aren’t old enough to get the vaccine being exposed. “If I am a potential carrier, I worry for the community I want to protect like the children who are not vaccinated,” Montoya-Cordova said.

Elder said this decision follows the CDC’s and American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations this week that everyone should wear a mask indoors. Elder said the uniform mask policy prevents anyone from being ostracized based on their vaccination status. “I don’t want to turn principals or teachers into the vaccination patrol,” Elder said.

Elder says those who refuse to wear a mask will be treated like students who violate the dress code. “If a student removes or refuses to wear a required mask we are advised the student will need to be put in isolation and picked up from school,” Elder said.

For sports, the district will follow NMAA guidelines meaning only unvaccinated students will have to mask up regardless if they are inside or outside. Some board members raised concern over the e-academy being the only option for virtual learning. The board says this will not be the last time this plan is discussed but these are the rules schools need to follow when some start welcoming students back next week.

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