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School Districts and COVID: 9-R Mandates Masks, Others Making it a Choice

Stasia Lanier
Ignacio High School in Ignacio, Colorado.

9-R's unanimous vote Thursday night mandates face coverings as part of the dress code. It also sets them apart among school districts in southwest Colorado.

But the decision follows the mask recommendations of the CDC, the Colorado Department of Education, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and San Juan Basin Public Health.

As of Thursday, June 12, districts in the towns of Ignacio, Bayfield, and Mancos, as well as Archuleta and Montezuma Counties, are all strongly recommending masks. But not requiring them. They're leaving it up to families and employees to choose.

In this report, a look at how educators are addressing health precautions as school doors reopen and viral cases spike.

Story Transcript:

Sarah Flower  00:00
COVID-19 cases are climbing throughout southwest Colorado. It comes at a time when school districts across the region are welcoming students for in person learning. Durango 9-R School District's unanimous vote last night to mandate face coverings sets them apart from any other school district in the region. In an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus, 9-R will follow the mask recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado Department of Education, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and San Juan Basin Public Health Department. School districts and Ignacio, Archuleta, Bayfield, Mancos and Montezuma are all strongly recommending masks but not requiring them at this point. At those districts it will be the family and staff's choice as to whether or not they will be in masks this year. Superintendent for Ignacio School District, Chris deKay says that he will be following most of the recommendations from public health experts

Chris deKay  01:00
We are going to follow the CDC and the state, and San Juan Basin Health recommendations as far as physical distancing, hand washing, respiratory etiquette, cleaning and maintaining healthy facilities. But at this point the mask wearing, which has kind of become the pivotal element, we are going to strongly encourage mask wearing but it won't be required. At this point.

Sarah Flower  01:28
San Juan Basin Public Health Department currently has a health advisory in place in which it requires masks in indoor settings if community transmission is substantial or high. As of this broadcast, the CDC is reporting that La Plata and Archuleta counties have high community transmission. Section 5 of the advisory states that Pre-K to 12 schools and higher education institutions require face coverings for all persons and indoor settings in alignment with CDC guidelines. deKay says that as this pandemic is ever changing, Ignacio School District's mitigation plans will be flexible as new information becomes available.

Chris deKay  02:10
I've been working very closely with the school board, and also my school administrators to really try to develop a plan that will keep kids safe, but that also respects choice by people, as we have moved through the pandemic. What I would say is this, whatever we come up with is going to be a changing document. It's got to be flexible. We understand that the situation is going to change. We will continue to monitor it and we will try to be very responsive in regards to the safety of our students and staff.

Sarah Flower  02:47
As of Thursday, Colorado is reporting the highest number of COVID-19 cases since May. In a press conference yesterday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis says that out of the 501 people currently hospitalized with the virus, seven of them are children under the age of 10. So far Polis is not mandating masks in schools, but is strongly recommending them. But he's also relying on other mitigation measures, including testing. He announced that starting the first week in September, Colorado will be providing free voluntary rapid COVID-19 tests on a weekly basis to all K to 12 schools who would like to opt in for the 2021-22 school year.

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