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A school bus waits outside Coronado Elementary School in Nogales.

The state government has prohibited school districts in Arizona from requiring the use of face masks, a move Superintendent Fernando Parra of the Nogales Unified School District called “concerning” in an email to parents sent earlier this month.

In his message, dated July 2, Parra noted the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and uncertainty about the what the pandemic situation will be in the fall.

“Therefore, NUSD will continue to highly encourage mask wearing following all CDC recommendations and the advice of our local health experts, but mask wearing is no longer a school mandate or policy, effective immediately, following the new legislative ordinance,” Parra wrote.

However, in a message to the NI this week, Parra said that NUSD will continue to require masks on school buses “at all times until further notice.”

The state rules, which went into effect June 30, prohibit local governments, including counties, cities and school districts, from requiring the use of face coverings by students or staff during school hours and on school property. The state is also forbidding schools from requiring students or teachers to be vaccinated.

Guidelines from the Centers of Disease Control recommend that unvaccinated people 2 and older continue to wear masks while indoors at school and maintain a 3-foot distance from others. Even so, those guidelines, updated July 9, do not allow schools to supersede the state’s rules.

However, Parra said that a separate CDC order preempts Arizona’s new statute and requires mask-wearing on buses.

“Therefore, mask wearing on school buses will continue until further notice beginning from the first day of school and during all school activities/athletics (students boarding the bus),” Parra wrote.

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