"On Divisive Mask Issue, Law Firm CEO Built Consensus in School Board Post," Daily Report
In an article published by the Daily Report on August 27, 2020, Kirk Hancock discusses a question he faced chairing the school board in Troup County: Should students and staff be required to wear masks?
As CEO of Taylor English, Hancock has to juggle multiple points of view as he runs a law firm with 179 professionals across 14 cities. This role prepared him to guide Troup County, where about 11,000 students attend public schools, through what Hancock described as "a very emotional topic," without "a single issue."
The issue has divided Georgians despite health authorities’ pleas that they wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. State School Superintendent Richard Woods has urged wearing masks but allowed school districts to decide the issue locally.
Hancock said he focused on how the board could maximize the number of days of in-person learning, knowing that all schools could be shut down, as they were last March. "Masks become an obvious tool” in that context, he said.
The school system embarked on an aggressive communication plan through 13 committees that allowed more than 200 staff, parents and students to discuss their views and understand the reopening plans. It conducted separate surveys — one for parents and the community, the other for teachers and administrators — on what they needed.
Hancock said the survey revealed the community needed a choice between online classes and in-person instruction, adding that "they assumed for most students, school learning is more productive than virtual.”
An initial reopening plan only “strongly recommended” wearing masks, but the seven-member board in July voted unanimously to require masks.
“I really am hopeful that after the dust settles, the renewed engagement/collaboration of parents, teachers and students in the child’s education will be a huge net positive,” explained Hancock.
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