Tied votes stymie city schools mask mandate

Brittanye Blake | The Valdosta Daily TimesValdosta City School Board of Education swore in three newly elected members Brittney Coons-Long, Justin Crenshaw and David Gilyard Tuesday.

VALDOSTA – Two tie votes stymied an effort to reinstate a mask mandate in city schools this week.

COVID-19 cases and quarantines are rising in city schools following winter break, school officials said. Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Cason asked to reinstate the mask mandate during the Jan. 11 Valdosta Board of Education meeting.

Masks have been optional on city school campuses since a 6-2 board vote Nov. 9.

Cason said, “Since we have returned from winter break, we have witnessed an increase in absences across all of our schools due to close contacts and positive cases.”

Board members Brittney Coons-Long, Warren Lee and Dr. Tad Moseley said it is too soon to judge the numbers with schools only being back for one week. Board members David Gilyard and Tyra Howard said it is necessary to be proactive and not reactive.

“We have followed the (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines as close as possible and made the most recent changes sent on Jan. 6 to offer students more opportunity for face-to-face learning” Cason said. “The CDC also recommends students K-12 to wear masks in order to reduce the amount of close contact quarantines.”

Howard provided additional data following the first 4-4 vote to not reinstate masks.

Following the second 4-4 vote to reinstate masks, resulting in a dead motion, the mask mandate reinstatement was tabled until the next board meeting.

In June, Cason proposed the Valdosta Board of Education place the old Valdosta High School on the market as most of it is not in proper working condition.

In October, the board voted to move forward with the request for proposal to hire a ealtor to market the facility and is now waiting for approval to secure a realtor.

During public participation, Mandy Brewington, dean of Scintilla Charter Academy, asked the board to consider a proposal submitted by SCA to acquire the old VHS.

Three new board members were sworn into office: Coons-Long, Justin Crenshaw, and Gilyard.

Coons-Long won District 9 At Large board seat race and Crenshaw took a lead over opponents in District 8 Superward West in November elections.

Gilyard won the District 7 Superward East runoff election held Nov. 30, against incumbent board member Debra Bell.

The board elected a board chair and vice chair.

A unanimous vote resulted in Howard as board chair and Kelisa Brown as board vice chair.

The next regular board meeting will be 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the superintendent’s office, 1204 Williams St.

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