COLORADO SPRINGS — With new federal and state guidelines on face coverings, some local school districts are making big changes the last week of the school year.
During a press conference last Friday, Governor Jared Polis announced mask mandates would be phased out of schools on June 1st, with fully vaccinated teachers and students allowed to stop wearing masks now — if their districts agree.
Falcon School District 49 is the first district to no longer require masks for elementary students effective immediately. Other students and staff won't be required to wear one after June 2nd.
Dear D49 Families,
The D49 Board of Education passed a resolution at their regular meeting May 13 directing all staff members to discontinue enforcement of mask requirements for elementary students on elementary campuses. This guidance will be effective Monday morning, May 17.
The resolution also directs staff to discontinue enforcement of mask requirements for all individuals at D49 campuses and work locations beginning June 2.
The office of Governor Jared Polis announced on Friday that Colorado will issue a new public health order to conform to newly released CDC guidance. While easing many restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals, Colorado guidelines require masks for individuals older than 10 in schools, daycare facilities and other businesses. This means that District 49 will continue to require masks for adults and for middle and high school students until state guidance changes. We will also require students riding with district transportation services to continue wearing masks through the end of the year.
Our board’s decision followed energetic public comment and significant debate during the Thursday meeting, resulting in a 3-2 vote in favor of the resolution. In summary, the resolution directs the following:
- Effective immediately, mask wearing by elementary grade students at our campuses shall not be the responsibility of, nor be enforced by, district personnel, including health professionals.
- No later than 2 June, mask wearing by students and staff at our campuses and work locations shall not be the responsibility of, nor be enforced by, district personnel, including health professionals.
"It's a little confusing because there is no determining factor of whether you have to be vaccinated or not. How do you determine who's been vaccinated or not vaccinated? With cases still coming in, it's a little nerve-wracking," said Angelica Marquez, Family Engagement Community Liason in District 49, parent.
She was surprised to hear news of the district's new mask requirements.
"I think it might be a little too soon because we don't have clarification on where we stand as a community as far as the progress of where the virus is going. With us only having a week and a half
of school left, I don't think it would have made much of a difference, but I think we should have waited until after summer to see where things go," said Marquez.
She says a lot of the kids are excited about not wearing masks anymore.
"It's just been uncomfortable, and to have that face-to-face interaction. It makes it more personable as well," said Marquez.
While her district is getting rid of masks, Academy School District 20 plans to continue with mask protocols the final five days of the school year. Elementary students won't have to wear them during summer school.
"I understand that they are trying to follow the norm or what's being set but they have a real opportunity to access in a true fashion what is right and what is wrong. They can actually influence other school districts to do the same," said Natalia Leiker, Academy School District 20 parent.
She has two children in the district and believes it should be up to the families to decide, and not whether you're vaccinated or unvaccinated.
"Vax or masks? Well, guess what, the kids who will have to wear a mask will be 100 percent singled out. What happened to body autonomy, what happened to keep our private medical history, what happened to a parent and a child making a decision about their health without being told what to do. This is where we are going when people are telling us in order to participate in society we have to change our belief in our body and our decisions to participate in anything. That is 100 percent wrong," said Leiker.
"My fear of what that is going to lead to is peer pressure in order for them to get the vaccine which I think is experimental. That's going to apply peer pressure to these kids who want to blend in and be accepted," said Amy Kerr, Academy School District 20 parent.
Kerr says her daughter pivoted to remote learning after experiencing anxiety with wearing a mask.
"On more than one occasion when she was able to go to school part-time with the masks, there were several times she got out of the car, took a couple of steps toward the doors then came back with tears. She said mom I just can't do this, seeing everyone in masks and not seeing their faces gives me anxiety. Extreme anxiety, she's just in tears," said Kerr.
Both parents say it's a slippery slope for schools to enforce a mask mandate for those unvaccinated.
"I recently did some research and found this out. CDC recently opened vaccinations to 17 million adolescents in the United States. Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said getting adolescents vaccinated means the faster return of normal activity, giving families peace of mind that their family is protected. She goes on to say the only side effects are pain at the injection site, low-grade fever, and chills," said Kerr. "What she doesn't state is this, from December 2020 to last month about 4,000 people died from COVID vaccines. Just four months this year, the government has reported more debt from COVID vaccines than any other vaccines administered in the United States in fifteen years."
"It definitely should be a choice. It doesn't bother me if you wear a mask or if you're vaccinated. If that makes you feel safe and that's the best decision for your family, that is the grace we need to give families who make that decision, the same as they need to give us the grace to make the decision for ours," said Leiker.
Both Pueblo School District 60 and 70 plan to continue with their current mask mandates.
"In order to keep things consistent across all grade levels we are just going to continue our policy of asking staff and students to continue wearing masks in the schools although outside you can take off those masks off when you are doing outdoor activities," said Todd Seip, Pueblo School District 70.
Both districts are still working on what to do with masks for summer and next school year.
Right now, the CDC is still recommending that schools use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies for the remainder of the school year. That includes using face coverings and practicing social distancing in school environments since most students aren’t fully vaccinated.