Local and state officials terminate mask requirement in schools
Eagle County Schools shares its plan for a return to pre-pandemic normal
As vaccination rates rise across Colorado counties, the state updated its public health order on Thursday, removing the mask requirements for school staff and students.
Under this new state order, face coverings are no longer required for unvaccinated people 12 and older in schools. This means that school districts and other child care environments — including summer camps and day cares — are now able to change their policies around masks.
On Tuesday, just two days before the state revised its health order, Eagle County Schools sent out a letter to parents and staff detailing its return to a normal school year. Among other details, this letter included the removal of face covering requirements for students and staff.
The letter stipulated that any individuals still wanting to wear a mask will be supported, but masks will not be required in educational spaces or activities. The letter noted that masks might still be required on school buses, but that the district will make a decision closer to the start of school.
A group of Eagle County parents have been pushing for this mandate to be lifted at the last two regular Board of Education meetings, on May 26 and June 23. This group has claimed that the mask and social distancing requirements in schools were detrimental to students’ physical and mental health.
Aside from the mask requirement being lifted, the local district detailed how else the schools will return to a “pre-pandemic normal” in its letter. This includes the return of:
- Five days of in-person instruction a week, with a late start on Wednesdays
- No physical distancing requirements
- Full athletic and activity schedules
- Field trips, including out-of-state trips
- Visitors will be permitted in schools
- No hybrid schedules
- Regular classes with electives, specials and supports
The district will still offer remote learning through World Academy for students and families that preferred it this year.
In addition, the district will not require students of staff to be vaccinated, something that has been a big talking point for the parents speaking out at board meetings.
“Decisions of health, values, faith, sports and education rest solely on the shoulders of the parents,” said Eagle County parent Heather Bergquist at the June 23 school board meeting. “Eagle County Schools is paid from our wallets to do one thing; and that is educate our children. We do not ask that you co-parent with us nor make medical decisions for our children.”
The school district will still continue to enforce some of the sanitation and cleanliness factors implemented this past school year. This includes increased sanitation and disinfection protocols in schools and on buses as well as higher levels of outdoor circulation within schools’ HVAC systems.
The letter does note that the return to normal protocols are based on current data. This data is largely related to the vaccination rates in the county and across the state. Nearly 70% of eligible Coloradans have now been vaccinated with one or more dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In Eagle County, just over 75% of the eligible population has reached the same threshold.
Going forward, the district will continue to listen to local and state public health regulations and guidance as the pandemic situation continues to evolve.
“We rely on collaboration to keep the district moving in a positive direction,” wrote Superintendent Philip Qualman in the letter.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.