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As school districts implement mask mandates, more families requesting exemptions

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Posted at 8:53 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 23:33:12-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — As school districts implement mask mandates, local doctors say more families are requesting mask exemptions.

Fiona Feickert has five children with autism and severe severe sensory issues.

"We have definitely struggled with getting them to wear masks. Getting them to keep masks on, getting them to wear masks appropriately and safely," said Feickert.

Which worried her with the mask mandates.

"With autistic kids, we knew sensory issues would be an issue, there is not a might be an issue question, we knew it would. After 2019 of our family having phenomena and bronchitis, we decided it was not worth the risk of going without a mask so we kept looking into options," said Feickert.

Rather than an exemption, Feickert was able to find a mask that fit each of her children's needs.

"The first masks we used were the disposable kind. We already had some because we had really bad colds. Then we started buying masks since we started wearing them more often. The first masks we tried were with the filters, and I will say from personal experience the filters don't make it any easier to breathe. I don't notice any difference and from what I read there is no difference between the filter masks and the nonfilter masks with the breathing but there is a difference with the safety. You will be less safe and the people around will be less safe with a filter mask. We don't use original masks we bought" said Feickert. "We started getting freebies and Kaiser gave us one. It has a bendy part on the nose and adjustable bands. These worked good for most of our kids but some couldn't handle the silky feeling on the inside. With that, we tried some other options. Sam's Club had child and adult-sized masks and they have bendy part and adjustable sides. That worked well for most of them, but again my daughter did not like how super soft it was on the inside. We found this one that wasn't silky and wasn't soft."

Doctors say families might have reasons to request an exemption.

"There may be several reasons why someone may not be able to tolerate masks. When it is a physical condition where they are not able to keep on their face. There might be a medical condition where they are not able to have one cover their nose and mouth," said Dr. Richard Vu, Colorado Springs physician.

Vu says he doesn't typically write mask exemption letters.

"The goal is to keep students in school as much as possible to continue in-person learning. We think it is important for students to have continuity of in-person learning. I think we would have a higher likelihood of maintaining in-person learning with masks versus not wearing masks," said Vu. "For example, during the last few weeks, we have schools that have opened without a strong emphasis on wearing masks, and what we have seen is in-person learning disrupted."

He recommends families work with their school district to find what works best.

"Such as remote learning in order to protect those students who cannot wear masks and protect other students around them," said Vu.

Feickert says whatever parents decide need to be respected.

"With that respect, we also need to respect what parents are telling their children," said Feickert.