The new school board overseeing the Douglas County School District will meet Tuesday to decide whether to end the mask requirements inside schools.
The resolution that the Board of Education will consider states that the district will not mandate masks in schools unless they are required by federal, state or local laws or public health orders. The school board will also not set a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students or district staff, according to the resolution.
“The (b)oard recommends, regardless of vaccination status, personal and parent choice with respect to whether or not children should wear face coverings while at school, while also allowing for appropriate and necessary accommodation of students with disabilities…,” reads the resolution.
The school board meeting started at 5 p.m. and at least two hours of public comment scheduled. The board is not expected to vote on no-masks until around 8:10 p.m., according to the agenda.
During the meeting, three school board members wore masks and four did not.
The first five speakers were students — none of whom wore masks — who opposed face coverings in schools and urged the new school board to do away with them. The Denver Post was unable to get speaker names.
“Me and my friends have a hard time communicating with masks,” one student said, adding, “I feel like masks suffocate me.”
They were followed by at least three other students who are in favor of face coverings in schools, with one student saying that masks will help keep students in school.
The meeting comes a month after four new conservative members — all against mask mandates — were elected to the school board last month. They hold the majority on the seven-member board.
However, a federal judge blocked a mask exemption from Douglas County’s new health department in October, saying it violated the rights of students with disabilities, so it’s unclear what effect a vote in favor of ending the mandate will immediately have.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal masking inside school buildings for students and staff. The agency discovered that counties without face-covering requirements saw larger increases in COVID-19 cases in children after the start of school during the 2021-22 year, according to a Sept. 24 study.
Colorado saw a rise in COVID-19 cases among students after school returned in the fall, most notably among those — ages 5 to 11 years old — who were not eligible for a vaccine until November. Infections among children recently declined, but public health officials have warned that they could increase again as the holidays approach.
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