Masks recommended to be required indoors as Roaring Fork Schools prepare to start new school year
Special school board meeting Tuesday to address health-safety protocols
Students will be required to wear masks indoors, as will teachers when they are with students, when the upcoming school year begins, due to concerns about spread of the COVID-19 delta variant, according to a Roaring Fork School District recommendation before the school board Tuesday.
The rule will apply to district schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.
The matter will be discussed at a special meeting of the district school board via Zoom at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Public comment will be taken during the meeting starting at 5 p.m. Speakers are limited to three minutes and must sign up in advance using the board comment sign-up form on the district website, or by leaving a voicemail at 970-384-6001.
“In the interest of minimizing quarantines and maximizing learning and safety, we will need to wear masks in school until the pandemic abates,” District Superintendent Rob Stein advised in a memo to the school board.
“This decision, as is true for all of our major decisions during the pandemic, was made in consultation with local public health departments, both of the Garfield County hospitals, and the major pediatric and family practices in the valley,” Stein wrote to the board. “It represents the consensus and strong recommendation of the medical community.”
The decision is also in accordance with guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Centers for Disease Control and medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, he said.
Among the guidelines that will go into effect starting the first day of school on Aug. 16:
- All students will wear masks indoors (masks will not be required outdoors)
- Staff will wear masks in the presence of students
- Visitors are to wear masks while in school buildings
- Everyone will wear masks on school transportation vehicles
- Staff who have furnished proof of vaccination will not need to wear masks when students aren’t present.
Stein advised that the decisions by district administration are driven by the increasing spread of the highly contagious delta variant in western Colorado and across the United States.
He said a mask requirement is preferred to the continuous student and teacher quarantines that became a part of the routine last school year. Masks, along with a push to increase vaccination rates among students who are eligible to receive a vaccine, can help avoid that.
“Once schools went back to in-person learning early last fall, the single biggest disruption to student learning wasn’t wearing masks, it was quarantines caused by every exposure to somebody with COVID-19,” Stein wrote in the memo.
At one point, he said Roaring Fork Schools had 797 students unable to attend school due to isolation and quarantine.
“On average we had 113 students out of school, even though almost none of those students came down with the disease,” he wrote.
Stein referred to guidance released by CDPHE in late July, which he said presented a choice for local school districts.
“If we want to keep kids in school and avoid the massive quarantines and disruptions we had last year, CDPHE has given our schools and communities some criteria to avoid them, including wearing masks, meeting specified vaccination rates or reducing incident rates of COVID below a specified threshold,” he explained.
Stein’s full memo can be found in the school board packet for Tuesday, available online at rfsd.k12.co.us.
To avoid the disruptions from quarantines this fall, masks and vaccines need to be part of the solution, Stein concluded.
“Everybody hates wearing masks, and some people are opposed to them because of their personal beliefs,” he also wrote. “Nobody likes shots, and some people don’t trust the vaccines. But the best chance we have to keep kids in school this fall is to meet (the CDPHE) conditions.”
Stein also noted that protocols for athletics will likely differ from those employed in schools.
He concluded that, once the following conditions are met, the mask mandate in schools can be lifted.
- When a school reaches a 70% vaccination rate for everyone in the building — including staff and students
- When a community reaches a 70% vaccination rate
- When the county reaches an incidence rate below 35 per 100,000 over the past seven days (currently that number is 94.7 per 100,000 for Garfield County)
Members of the public who wish to share their views may also do so in writing at any time via that same form, by emailing the board, or by sending a letter to the district office.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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