MERIDIAN, Idaho — Parents lined up at the West Ada School District office to opt their kids out of the district's new mask mandate. This comes despite high numbers of the coronavirus delta variant in kids and the fact that kids under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine. The district says it's just following the expert advice of the medical community which is ringing the alarm.
Contentious debate and a compromised mask rule led to long lines of parents at the West Ada School District office Wednesday.
"It's a ridiculous usurpation and we're sick of our children being taught to be prisoners," said Paul Burton, a parent of a student in the West Ada School District.
The school district decided Tuesday to make masks mandatory for the new school year with the option to opt out.
"I think we can't always focus on what makes everyone happy," said Char Jackson, communications officer for West Ada School District. "Our goal is to keep kids in-person learning five days a week and so that's what we focus on. How we can safely keep them learning every day in school."
The district listened to the medical experts who say the old days of kids having more immunity are gone.
"I will tell you that anyone who will listen has heard this same message from Jim and from me," said Dr. Kenny Bramwell, St. Luke's Health System medical director. "We think that masking requirement is the best option currently given the infectivity of the virus."
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 800,000 kids got the variant nationwide last week alone, a four-fold increase from just three weeks earlier and school hasn't even started in many areas. Many parents who testified before the school board Tuesday are concerned for their kid's safety without a mask mandate.
"Masks aren't a perfect answer, I agree with that. I don't like them either. But we are better off with them than without them," said one parent at the board meeting Tuesday night.
"I think they need to be in school and need to be around their peers and they need to interact normally and see facial cues," said Ellen Bryla, another parent at the West Ada School District office Wednesday.
The district says it will revisit the mask policy frequently. If you want to opt-out, you must do so in person because an ID is required and even if your child is fully vaccinated, if they want to opt-out, they must sign the waiver.
The district says staff will be available to take the forms at the east entrance of the District Service Center on these dates:
- Wednesday, August 25, Noon-8 p.m.
- Thursday, August 26, 8 a.m-8 p.m.
- Friday, August 27, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.