Summit School District lifts mask mandate
Summit School District students, teachers and staff members will not be required to wear masks starting Thursday, Feb. 24.
The district announced in a news release Wednesday, Feb. 23, that it is lifting its mask mandate. Although the masks are optional in classrooms, they remain required on school buses and in preschools, following a mandate from the federal government.
Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford met with officials from the Summit County Public Health Department on Monday, Feb. 21, to discuss current COVID-19 trends. Crawford said public health officials presented data and helped him weigh risks but did not ultimately weigh in on the decision to remove masks.
Crawford was influenced to remove the requirement after seeing the following data points:
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates a 91% immunity rate in Colorado from either vaccinations or positive cases.
- Summit County cases have decreased from over 3,500 per 100,000 residents in early January to 103.2 per 100,000 as of Feb. 22.
- Summit County’s positivity rate has decreased from 29.9% in early January to 6% on Feb. 22.
- Cases in schools from early January have dropped from 110 per week to 21 per week as of Feb. 11.
- School screening tests show a positivity rate of less than 2%.
Crawford said the decision came down to balancing the potential health risks presented by the data points with the emotional and developmental impacts masks have on young children.
“Those big numbers in the data just really tipped the balance in favor of the educational benefits of taking them off,” he said.
The district’s decision comes after many parents expressed their concerns about the mask requirement’s impact on their children’s learning. Over 800 people have signed a petition on Change.org. The petition asks the school district to remove its mask requirement.
“It’s time to step back and critically examine whether the fear and perceived danger are warranted, and recognize our most vulnerable population, without a voice of its own, is paying the price,” the petition’s Change.org page states.
On Monday, Feb. 21, a group of around 30 parents and children protested the mask requirement at Upper Blue Elementary School. They carried signs with messages like “unmask our kids” and “put our children first.”
Will Cabana, a father of three Upper Blue students and a toddler who will attend the school next year, helped organize the protest.
Cabana said he couldn’t see a reason why the district would decide to keep the mask requirement after Summit County ended the countywide requirement Jan. 25.
“Everyone’s ready to move forward, and it’s starting to affect the children,” said Cabana, who added that he’s worried about the masks’ impact on his children’s development.
After hearing from parents on both sides of the argument, Crawford said he felt his role was to take the passion out of the issue and make a decision solely based on data. Now that masks are not required, the superintendent said any parents who are concerned about COVID-19 spread should find comfort in the numbers.
“Talking to public health, if children are vaccinated, if children wear KN95 masks when parents have that concern, the science and the data I see is that the risk is relatively minimal,” Crawford said.
The district might reinstate temporary mask requirements for certain groups if there are outbreaks among classrooms, schools or sports teams. The district might also consider reinstating the mask requirement if community COVID-19 numbers increase significantly.
The district is continuing to encourage parents, students and community members to get vaccinated if they are eligible.
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