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Dr. Ed Nichols and the MCS Board of Education members: Travis Cummings, Luis Javier Ferrer, Alice Lessmann, Greg Hulsey and board president Tim Holtcamp.

Nichols reverses mask requirement for Madison schools, placing mandate in school board’s hands

MADISON – Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Ed Nichols reversed himself tonight on a decision he made last week about mandating masks in the city schools.

On Friday, Dr. Nichols sent an email to parents letting them know that he was switching the school district a “mask preferred” status rather than keeping the mandate in place. The “Mask Preferred” status encourages masks in schools and other buildings but does not make it a requirement. Masking is still be required on all bus transportation.

Parents within the school system have been deeply divided over the issue. Recent school board meetings have been filled with parents stating their concerns and strong beliefs for either dropping the mask mandate or keeping it.

“When we started this school year, I required masks to be worn in our school buildings. At that time, I committed to review our data and when I felt that we could relax this requirement, I would make that change,” Nichols said. “Since the beginning of the school year, we have seen a reduction of positive cases from around 1% of our school family to less than .4%.”

Nichols said Tuesday that the decision is not really his to make after all. He said that since making the decision on Friday he has consultated with the school district’s legal counsel. “I have been advised of a possible interpretation of the Board’s policy under which the Board should be asked to approve or disapprove the change I announced,” he said. “For that reason, I have decided to return to Madison City Schools’ previous ‘Mask Required’ status until this matter can be considered by the Board. I apologize that we are so quickly reversing course. However, I certainly want to make sure that our district is in compliance with Board Policy. I have always believed that if you need to correct an issue, you take action and do so.”

The school board will meet next on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. at the Madison City Schools Central Office on Celtic Blvd. It is unclear if the board intends to take the issue up at that meeting.

Nichols said he will work with the school board to review the appropriate masking procedure and how it may be addressed in the future.

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