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FUSD Continues Mask Mandate After Arizona Law Ruled Unconstitutional

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Flagstaff Unified School District will keep its mask mandate for students and staff in place. It follows a court decision this week that ruled the state’s ban on such requirements was unconstitutional. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

FUSD’s governing board on Tuesday voted to continue the mask policy it put in place last month at the beginning of the school year. It requires face coverings to be worn at all times indoors on school property.

“The Flagstaff Unified School District Governing Board and I believe that consistent and layered use of the available mitigation strategies gives us the best chance of protecting the health and safety of our students and staff, and maintaining in-person learning throughout the 2021-2022 school year,” said FUSD Superintendent Michael Penca in a statement. “This is especially true due to the highly contagious Delta variant, the high transmission rates of COVID-19 in our local communities, and the inability of many students, especially those under age 12, to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at this time.”

Many local charter schools, including Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy and Flagstaff Junior Academy, have also continued their mandates following this week’s ruling. Williams, Page and Prescott unified schools don’t currently require masks on campus, but at least 29 districts statewide are mandating them. All schools on the Navajo Nation require masks even at low transmission levels.

A Superior Court judge Monday ruled the state law passed this year barring districts from putting the requirements in place violated the Arizona Constitution. The law was set to go into effect Wednesday, but districts and charter schools can now choose whether to adopt the measures.

According to datareleased last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arizona schools that didn’t have mask requirements in place were three-and-a-half times more likely to experience COVID outbreaks.

Ryan Heinsius joined the KNAU newsroom as executive producer in 2013 and was named news director and managing editor in 2024. As a reporter, he has covered a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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