City: Statewide Mask Mandate Cannot be Enforced at North River Christian

Masks North River Christian

On Tuesday, we brought you a story of concerns from North River Christian Academy parents worried about the school’s lax face mask policy.

Wednesday, we heard from some North River Christian Academy parents who told us they do feel safe sending their children to the school despite masks not being required.

Kelly Mitchem’s daughter attends North River Christian Academy.

“Our school cares about our children,” she said.

All North River Christian Academy families received a document of the school’s COVID-19 procedures before school started. The mask section reads: “Masks are a personal decision and not mandated by the school.”

“The school is within protocol,” Mitchem said. “When you infringe on freedom, which to me freedom is being infringed. That’s a problem. We all need to be able to say, it is a choice.”

Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris told WVUA 23 private schools are not exempt from the governor’s statewide mask mandate. However, it is not up to the health department to enforce this health order. It is the responsibility of local law enforcement agencies.

“It is certainly not the position of the health department that we want to be punitive or have people arrested for something like that,” Harris said. “We hope that people would do the right thing. Certainly, I can conceive of a situation in which, maybe at their school, maybe they are able to maintain distancing in such a way that it is not required. As of now, the governor’s face-covering mandate would apply to everyone statewide.”

WVUA 23 reached out to the city of Tuscaloosa asking if the statewide mandate would be enforced at North River Christian or if penalties would be imposed and this is what they told us.

Per the City Attorney’s Office:

“The Office of City Attorney has conferred with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the Alabama Department of Public Health. The State Health Order was drafted to give schools broad latitude to develop their own COVID-19 related plans. Though the Order clearly intends for children at school to wear face coverings when possible, as currently drafted the State Health Order makes it impossible for the City to compel a school to enforce a mask policy.”

Parents like Mitchem said North River Christian Academy is taking other health precautions and therefore they are glad their children do not have to wear a mask while at school.

“They have all the other protocols in place,” Mitchem said. “Sanitation stations, social distancing, I have not once felt like my child was in danger. She is an only child. I am a mama bear, so believe me if I felt she was in danger, she would not be there.”

As of now, Alabama’s statewide mask mandate is set to expire Aug. 31.

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