'We want our kids in school': BSD trustees approve plan to require face coverings for students, staff regardless of vaccination

Boise School District Aug. 3 special meeting
Posted at 6:43 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 10:28:10-04

BOISE, Idaho — The Boise School District Board of Trustees approved a plan to require face coverings for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.

All trustees who were present voted to approve the plan.

The Boise School District administration recommended reinstating face coverings indoors for all students, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. The recommendation also states masks will only be required outside for large gatherings.

"Everything we are hearing is the more we can get vaccinated, the better our chances are of not having to wear face coverings and to be able to have in-person learning," Deputy Superintendent Lisa Roberts said. "Our biggest fear is to have to go back to remote learning. We do not want to do that."

Several board members said the goal is to have students learning in the classroom and requiring face coverings is the best way to keep students and staff safe while maintaining in-person learning.

"At the end of the day, we want our kids in school," trustee Beth Oppenheimer said.

Ada County data shows the county, home to Boise School District, is in the red category for high COVID-19 transmission, with increasing positivity rates for those ages 5-12 and 12-18.

“The number one reason is for wanting to go with the mask, it’s because it’s really difficult for students to quarantine and be out of class, for teachers to try to keep track of in class with the students that are out of class, or even to just to try to keep enough staff with a substitute in our buildings," Roberts told board members. "We've got students who are really excited to be in school in person all year and want to participate in sports and don’t want to sit games out because of quarantine. We feel like the mask at this point in time with high transmission is our absolute best bet to starting the school year in person five days a week."

The plan details there are a number of factors the administration will continue to watch:

  • Number of COVID-19 cases
  • Community transmission
  • Spread of COVID-19 in schools
  • Number of students and staff in quarantine
  • Support from local health professionals
  • Availability of vaccine for ages 5-11

After the vote, some parents who attended the meeting were left feeling unhappy and frustrated with the board's decision.

“The point being, as a parent, you want control over your children's health decision. None of those members know my child, they don't know her name, they don’t know what grade she’s going to," said Kay-Cee Spadey, whose daughter will be entering the sixth grade in the upcoming school year.

One parent told the board she will send her child without a face mask.

"It’s not because we don’t care about coronavirus. No one here is denying it exists or that it hurts people, and it's killing people. I had a family member that passed away from it. Of course, it's very real, but again it’s allowing people to make decisions for themselves and what’s best for their family," Spadey said.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced on August 3 the delta variant is the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Idaho now. From May through June, alpha was the most common variant in Idaho. In July, most of the sequences returned as the delta variant.

District Deputy Superintendent Lisa Roberts said they will be paying very close attention to the number of people who are in quarantine after too many students and staff were in quarantine to continue teaching previously.

District officials said they have been consulting with several healthcare professionals, all of who reported the fourth wave of COVID-19.

The trustees previously approved a plan to make face masks optional for the 2021-2022 school year during a July 12 meeting.

Watch the full meeting here: