BOISE, Idaho — The Boise school board unanimously approved a new COVID-19 response plan that removes the district's mask mandate - among other safety measures - Monday night.
Following rigorous discussion and several upset responses from the crowd of meeting attendees, the board voted to implement the plan on March 28 — following Spring Break.
BSD is one of the few districts that has maintained a mask mandate. Its neighboring districts — West Ada and Nampa — operate under an "optional" face-covering policy.
Members of the Boise School District Parents' Association rallied in favor of BSD's proposal to end pandemic restrictions last Friday. Two parents ' association representatives in an interview with Idaho New 6 said they favored the new plan and its "endemic" emphasis.
The new plan, according to the online version, includes:
- Making masks optional
- Return pre-pandemic school activities like dances, clubs and field trips
- Implement and follow the BSD illness procedure guidelines
A video detailing the new plan is available here.
Brian Walker, Timberline area director for the district, said the plan was developed over the past month by the Endemic Planning Committee — a collective of BSD parents, students, nurses, administrators and directors.
"I would definitely say we had diverse views," Walker said. "Not everyone was in agreement on everything, and we definitely had both sides."
Walker said the new measures are not an "endemic" plan because the committee felt "endemic" is a "loaded word" that BSD didn't want to adopt.
"Who gets to declare it's an endemic, who gets to declare what an endemic plan looks like? You're getting into a national, worldwide conversation," he said. "We felt it more appropriate to look at it from a district level."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines endemic as "the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area."
Trustees across the board expressed their support for the new plan before unanimously approving it Monday night.
"I really appreciate that we are calling it strengthening our health and safety (plan), which we should be doing anyway," Trustee Beth Oppenheimer said. "We've learned a lot over the past two years, and things have evolved as we've learned. Anytime that we can strengthen our health and safety, that's the number one thing that we need to do — make sure our kids and families and our teachers are healthy and safe."
Under the district administration's recommendation, the board also approved setting the new plan's implementation date on March 28 — much to the upset of several attendees who voiced their opposition.
"What is pushing the date back going to do," one woman said before being asked to leave by board president Dave Wagers.
BSD trustee Steve Schmidt also voiced his desire to move up the plan's implementation date.
"I would love to see it as soon as we possibly can," he said. "The number that comes to my mind is let's take a look at it in two weeks. Let's see how our district is able, how our fill rates are in two weeks, to see if this is something that we can do."
BSD officials said they would continue to watch COVID-19 trends and that the district can revisit safety guidelines as needed.