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Boise School District drops mask mandate, moves forward with new COVID-19 safety measures

Boise School District
Posted at 4:56 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-07 18:56:20-05

BOISE, Idaho — On Monday, the Boise school board unanimously voted to end the district's mask mandate.

The board's decision comes after new CDC guidance reported Ada County no longer has a "high" level of community transmission.

CDC guidance

Related: Health officials reflect on second COVID-19 pandemic anniversary, talk next steps

In February, BSD trustees voted to adopt a new COVID-19 related Health and Safety Plan that would have ended the mask mandate after spring break vacation.

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.

Related: Boise school board votes to drop mask mandate, new COVID-19 measures start March 28

Monday's vote will not impact the rollout of the new plan, which starts on March 28, trustees said.

During the Monday meeting, district staff reported student and staff absences have dramatically declined since the omicron surge in January.

Deputy Superintendent Lisa Roberts said amid the omicron variant's peak from Jan. 17 to Jan. 23, BSD reported 952 positive cases and 529 quarantines. Last week, Roberts said there were only 16 new positive cases and 10 quarantines.

"(These are) all great trends that we're seeing as our numbers move down," she said.

Related: Health officials say omicron is spreading fast across Idaho

Roberts said the district also spoke with St. Luke's pediatric emergency medicine specialist Kenny Bramwell and President of Saint Alphonsus Medical Group Dr. Mark Nassir about the CDC guidance.

"When we asked about the CDC guidance that masks do not have to be worn indoors if the community is at a medium level of transmission, they confirmed that universal mask-wearing is the safest option in our schools," Roberts said. "They did say, however, if we were to move to masks recommended or optional, those individuals who chose to continue to wear masks would continue to have increased protection against COVID-19."

Bramwell also told BSD that case counts could be incorrect and remain cautious.

Based on expert and district staff comments, the new BSD mask policy is:

  • Unvaccinated: masks recommended  
  • Vaccinated: masks optional 

Nearly all BSD trustees spoke in favor of dropping the mask mandate.

Trustee Andy Hawes said as the numbers continue to go down, he is hopeful COVID-19 will become less prominent in the community so that the district can focus on instruction.

"As this crisis hopefully fades, and I know we're not out of the woods yet, that I know myself and the rest of us are looking forward to promoting the common interests that we have with our patrons," Hawes said. "And to do what we can do to make sure our kids graduate as outstanding citizens who are prepared for college or career."