Patagonia Public Schools implemented a face mask requirement for high school students and staff beginning on Tuesday, Aug. 24, adding its name to the growing list of Arizona school districts to require mask use on campus.

The new rule at Patagonia Union High School, which requires mask use in indoor settings, was announced on the Patagonia Public Schools website and Facebook page on Monday evening. The mask requirement also applies to all students who ride a school bus.

The mandate will remain in place until Tuesday, Sept. 28, the announcement said. That’s the last day before a new state law goes into effect that prohibits mask requirements at Arizona public schools.

The prohibition included a clause making it effective June 30, but a Maricopa County judge ruled on Aug. 16 that it couldn’t take effect until 90 days after the legislative session ended, which is Sept. 29.

Gov. Doug Ducey, who signed the bill into law, tried to discourage schools from enacting mask mandates in the wake of the judge’s ruling by announcing that he would distribute $163 million in American Rescue Plan funding only to schools that are not requiring masks as of Aug. 27. He also offered vouchers to families who want to take their children out of schools where masks are required.

But with COVID-19 cases on the rise in Arizona, a number of districts around the state, including Nogales Unified and the Santa Cruz Valley Unified in Rico Rico, have gone ahead and implemented mask requirements.

Comments posted to the Patagonia Public Schools Facebook page in response to the new mask requirement were supportive.

Commenter Mathilde Encinos called it “The right thing to do,” and asked: “If the majority of the public schools defy Ducey's foolish order, can he still withhold public $$$$$?”

Kathy Gehlert called it an “excellent decision.”

“Thank you for trying your best to keep the kids safe. The kids want to stay in school. Hoping this will help,” she wrote.

In its announcement, Patagonia Public Schools said that anyone with questions can call (520) 394-3000.

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