MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Collierville School District students will return to in-person learning following winter break, but without being required to wear masks.

The decision comes just one day after the school board debated the mask issue.

“I hate the idea of implementing mask mandates,” board member Frank Warren said.

Wanda Gibbs, another board member, said as a mother and grandmother, she is a proponent for having parental choice.

On Sunday, Jan. 2, 89 Collierville school teachers and staff members either tested positive or were exposed to COVID-19. That number includes 16 at Collierville High School. Gary Lilly is the district’s superintendent and says the Omicron variant seems “super transmissible.”

Wright Cox, Collierville School Board Chairman said the purpose of the meeting is to find ways to keep student in the classroom.

“The whole premise of the meeting is do all that we can to keep our schools open, keep our children in school and staff at school,” Cox said. “We’ve seen with the remote learning that doesn’t replace being in the classroom.”

However, with numbers rising, he is also concern about whether there will be enough staff for the students.

“That’s why we wanted to get together in the first place because I talked to Dr. Lilly early in the day yesterday about COVID numbers going up, was that going to affect us being able to deliver for our students and have teachers in the classroom,” Cox said.

All Collierville schools have been impacted by COVID. The district said they only have 60 available substitiues.

Still, the school board voted not to require masks for now, leaving open the possibility of revisiting the issue if COVID conditions worsen.