Summit School District to reconsider mask requirement after winter break |

Summit School District to reconsider mask requirement after winter break

Students wear their masks as they return to Silverthorne Elementary for the first day of school Aug. 27, 2021. The Summit School District will reconsider its mask requirement after the students return from winter break, which is next week.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

The Summit School District will reevaluate its mask requirement after students return from winter break Feb. 21.

At a Board of Education meeting Thursday, Feb. 10, Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford said he will be meeting with Summit County Public Health Department officials Feb. 21 to evaluate county and statewide COVID-19 metrics. The district should have an official decision to share with the community by Feb. 23.

The county health department announced in a news release earlier this week that it would let the public health order expire at the end of the day Friday, Feb. 11. The release stated that the department supports the district’s decision to keep masks for the near future, which falls in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the American Pediatric Association.

At the Feb. 21 meeting, Roy and public health officials will be considering case numbers, vaccination rates and transmission in the district and statewide. They’ll also be looking at other districts throughout the state that have already removed mask requirements and evaluating how that decision has impacted case numbers.

The superintendent is hopeful that the number of cases at the district will be low after the weeklong break, which is from Feb. 14-18.

“We’re fortunate that we have a vacation week next week so the kids won’t be in school and teachers won’t be in school,” Crawford said in an interview before the meeting. “That’s a nice hiatus for us.”

The district might opt to remove the requirement for just middle or high school students and keep it for elementary students. The vaccination rate among students at Summit High School and Snowy Peaks is above 70%. That number drops to under 60% among middle school students and under 30% at the elementary level, Crawford said.

Because of the 90-minute class structure, high school students spend less time in one room with one another than elementary or middle school students. It’s also easier to keep older students physically distant than younger kids who don’t have as much of a grasp on COVID-19 mitigation strategies, he said.

The superintendent said he could see the district using a phased approach, removing the masks over time. Ultimately, when and how the masks are removed will depend on decisions made at the Feb. 21 meeting.

Removing masks would be a welcome change for some parents, who feel they hinder students’ abilities to make social connections.

“At some point, we have to consider for the greater good the mental health for every single person as much as we are and have been weighing the physical health of our students and staff,” Aaron Wooten, a parent of Summit High and Snow Peaks students, said during the public comment period of Thursday’s board meeting.

Crawford said he understands concerns about development and social and emotional health but that the ultimate decision comes down to the data. The superintendent doesn’t want to remove masks if it could lead to increased quarantines or school closures.

“I don’t apologize for taking the cautious, deliberate approach,” Crawford said at Thursday’s meeting.

The school board members supported Crawford’s plan to reevaluate the mandate after winter break. However, some were more supportive of the idea of removing masks than others.

“Sometimes we have to make decisions or choices that might not be the best for ourselves but are for the greater community and greater world,” board member Chris Alleman said, expressing his support of the masks.

Other board members, including Johanna Kugler and Gloria Quintero, expressed concerns about bullying once the requirement is lifted. Kugler said she’d like to see the district discourage any discrimination or bullying based on a student’s choice whether to wear a mask.

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