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Doctors ask Idaho Falls trustees to require masks in elementary schools

Student face masks
Posted at 4:26 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-10 18:26:44-04

This article was originally published by Nik Streng in Idaho Ed News.

Several local doctors have asked Idaho Falls School District trustees to make face coverings mandatory for elementary students, according to a letter released Tuesday.

The letter, signed by 14 doctors from hospitals in Idaho Falls and Blackfoot, cites concerns about rising COVID-19 infection rates statewide and high infection rates among children — and comes days after Idaho Falls approved a school reopening plan that makes masks optional.

Doctors who signed the letter say the plan doesn’t go far enough.

“Until a vaccine is approved for children 12 and under,” the letter reads, “a relaxed D91 mask policy leaves our Elementary School Students, Teachers, Faculty and Families particularly vulnerable to the spread of infection.”

The coronavirus vaccine is still only available for those 12 and older. About 45% of eligible residents of Bonneville County have been vaccinated, state numbers show.

The doctors are asking patrons to publicly endorse their letter and plan to provide a list of endorsements to trustees during a board meeting set for Wednesday night. While trustees will not be discussing masks on Wednesday, the doctors hope the board will schedule a special meeting to consider their request for a mask mandate.

Masks were a heated topic of debate in Idaho Falls last school year, fueling pushback from some community members and sparking recall campaigns against two trustees.

Idaho Falls elementary and middle schoolers will return to school on Aug. 25. High school students are set to start on Aug. 26.

With students heading back to school over the coming weeks, similar debates continue to play out in other districts. Boise patrons protested the district’s recent mask mandate during a meeting on Monday.

West Ada trustees will meet Tuesday, though there are no mask-related items on the agenda. New West Ada Superintendent Derek Bub has pushed to keep masks optional. Check back here Tuesday night for our coverage of the meeting.

Here’s a closer look at what’s happening in East Idaho’s other large districts:

Pocatello-Chubbuck

Students and staff members in Pocatello-Chubbuck plan to start the school year with a masks-optional policy.

The board has not met since the release of new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which asks that people wear face coverings while indoors regardless of vaccination status. Pocatello-Chubbuck’s next meeting is set for Aug. 17. Trustees are scheduled to vote on a reopening plan.

Pocatello-Chubbuck’s first day is set for Aug. 25.

Bonneville

Bonneville trustees will vote on the district’s reopening plan Wednesday night.

A proposed plan bases the district’s mask policy on the level of transmission in the district. Masks will be optional, as long as the district is in green (low transmission) or yellow (substantial transmission). If the district drifts into the red (high transmission), then face coverings will be required.

The first day for Bonneville schools will be Aug. 30.