Face masks not required for summer school

Posted 7/2/20

Students and teachers will not be required to wear face masks as summer school begins next week, but the decision will be left up to individuals.

“Teachers that want to wear a mask will get …

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Face masks not required for summer school


Students and teachers will not be required to wear face masks as summer school begins next week, but the decision will be left up to individuals.

“Teachers that want to wear a mask will get a mask,” said Superintendent Jay Curtis. “Parents who want their kids to wear a mask will get a mask.”

Masks will not be required where social distancing can be achieved, he said.

“As per health orders, either masks, face shields or sneeze guards will be utilized when close contact is necessary and social distancing cannot be achieved,” Curtis said Monday. “An example of this is small reading groups, where proximity is necessary to individually instruct.”

He said schools will be trying out masks, face shields and sneeze guards “so we can use that information to help us with our planning for this fall.”

With smaller class sizes, social distancing is easier during summer school.

“But when you put 1,800 kids back in our buildings [this fall], achieving social distancing is not going to happen …” Curtis told the school board last week. “I’m concerned as we move toward reopening, what it will mean.”

Park County School District No. 1 surveyed parents and guardians about reopening schools in the fall, and initial results show most oppose masks as a requirement.

“The vast majority of them are saying, ‘We really don’t think that it’s important that you make every kid wear a mask,’” Curtis told the school board.

As is the case across America, masks appear to be a divisive issue in Powell.

“There is sure a fairly strong sentiment out there that, ‘If you make my kid wear a mask to school ... they will not be at school,’” Curtis said. “There is the other side of that coin where there’s some parents saying, ‘If you don’t make every kid wear a mask, mine won’t be at school.’”

Curtis told the board “there’s no way to win this one.”

“It’s almost become more of a politically charged topic, to wear a mask or to not wear a mask,” he said. “Which I think is silly — I think we should always look at what research tells us.”

While Curtis said he is “as conservative as the next guy,” he said that research shows wearing masks reduces the spread of COVID-19.

To some degree, he said the decision about whether to require masks this fall will depend on the state of COVID-19 in Powell at the time.

“If there’s a lot more cases, then we might have to say, ‘Guess what? Everybody needs to wear a mask,’” Curtis said.

Trustee Kimberly Condie asked if masks could be a condition of reopening schools. She said when the libraries reopened, Park County Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin gave specific guidelines on what they can or can’t do. When people were unhappy with certain things, she said library staff explained that to be open, “We have to follow certain procedures, no matter our personal opinions.”

Curtis said the county doesn’t want to be more restrictive than the state guidelines.

If masks are not an order from the state, “I don’t know that we’re going to do that.” Requiring masks would be a fight, he said, and “we would be choosing the hill to die on.”

Whatever the district does will be “in lockstep with health orders, for sure,” Curtis said.

He also said district staff will do whatever they need to do for kids to return to school buildings.

“... We know that while our remote learning plan was about as good as it could have been, it’s not as good as having kids in our buildings,” Curtis said. “So if we truly believe that we always make decisions that are best for kids, then having them in our buildings, I believe, is by far the best thing for them, so we’ll do whatever we have to do.”