Douglas County schools stick with student mask rule

Policy stands despite 'opt out' vote by county officials

Colorado Community Media
Posted 8/20/21

The Douglas County School District is not backing down from its newly announced rule requiring students through sixth grade to wear face masks indoors as a COVID-19 safety measure.

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Douglas County schools stick with student mask rule

Policy stands despite 'opt out' vote by county officials

Posted

The Douglas County School District is not backing down from its newly announced rule requiring students through sixth grade to wear face masks indoors as a COVID-19 safety measure, despite a decision by county commissioners to "opt out" of a public-health agency's order on masks in schools.

"As previously communicated, effective Monday, August 23, the Douglas County School District will begin to require all students in Preschool through Sixth Grade to wear face coverings in all indoor school settings," district Superintendent Corey Wise said in an Aug. 20 email to district families and staff. "This requirement will also apply to all staff who work with this age group."

Wise's email (reproduced below) reinforces Wise's Aug. 17 announcement  of the new policy. Previously the district only recommended that students wear masks.

That announcement followed a public health order earlier on the 17th from the board of the Tri-County Health Department, which provides public-health services to Douglas County as well as Adams and Arapahoe counties. Tri-County's order required mask wearing for all children aged 2 to 11 years old as well as staffers interacting with those children inside schools in the department's three-county jurisdictions.

Children under age 12 currently are not eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

That order, and DCSD's mask-policy announcement, was followed Aug. 19 by a four-hours-long meeting of Douglas County commissioners, who voted unanimously to opt out of the Tri-County order, as the agency allows counties to do.

The opt-out vote left it up to the school district to decide whether to move forward with its new mark rule.

But in his letter Aug. 20, Wise said that it's district policy to set health-safety policies "in accordance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) or Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) guidelines."

The full text of his letter is below.

August 20, 2021

Dear Douglas County School District Families and Staff,

As public educators here in Douglas County School District, we are passionate about providing your students with the best possible education to prepare them for bright futures. We recognize the COVID pandemic has been incredibly challenging for our students, families, and staff. We continue to navigate the complexities of our current circumstances, and we empathize with the varying emotions regarding COVID mitigation protocols in our schools. However, please know that our goal is to keep our students and staff safe and in the classroom for in-person learning.

Earlier this week, Dr. Douglas, Tri-County Health Department’s Executive Director, issued a public health order requiring facial coverings to be worn by children aged 2 to 11 in all indoor school settings. Yesterday, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution to opt-out of that health order. However, the Douglas County School District is a separate entity operating within its own policies.

In alignment with DCSD policy, management of common communicable diseases is done in accordance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) or Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) guidelines. Under state law, CDPHE and TCHD are the entities with authority to investigate and control the causes of communicable diseases and conditions affecting public health.

As previously communicated, effective Monday, August 23, the Douglas County School District will begin to require all students in Preschool through Sixth Grade to wear face coverings in all indoor school settings. This requirement will also apply to all staff who work with this age group. Approximately 94% of students in sixth grade are in the 2-11 age group, so face coverings will be required for sixth-grade students even though some of them may be older than age 11 and some may attend middle school. We will honor mask-wearing exemptions for students who cannot tolerate a face covering due to medical or mental health reasons as provided by a qualified healthcare provider.

The Tri-County Health Department and other medical experts emphasize that mask-wearing is an important and effective prevention strategy to keep students and staff safe. While masks are not mandatory for students in grades 7-12 at this time, it is still strongly recommended that all students and staff wear masks inside school buildings regardless of vaccination status.

More information about DCSD’s layered COVID protocols including this mask requirement can be found on our website.

We will continue to keep our community informed of any updates.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and partnership. If you have any questions or wish to provide feedback regarding DCSD’s COVID mitigation protocols, please email LookingForward@dcsdk12.org.

Sincerely,

Corey Wise
Superintendent
Douglas County School District

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