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Parent group urges West Ada School District to change mask policy

Parents in Idaho’s largest school district are asking the school district to follow CDC guidelines: teachers and students should be masked when inside.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Parents in Idaho’s largest school district have come together asking school district leaders to change their mask policy for the upcoming school year.

The group – organized on Facebook – calls itself the West Ada Community for Health and Safety.

The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends students and teachers wear a face mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status. Despite this, the West Ada School District (WASD) is not going to require masks for the upcoming school year.

“I’m a little disappointed on how things are going for the West Ada School District right now,” group founder Noel O’Shea said. “There should be an option for safety in schools, in person, for all.”

Other mitigating measures are in place, according to WASD, but a specific FAQ document will not be released until the beginning of the school year.

For families who are not comfortable with the school district’s plan, virtual schooling will remain an option according to a letter by Superintendent Dr. Derek Bub.

With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continuing to rise, the return to school is concerning experts like Dr. David Pate, the retired CEO of St. Luke's Health Systems and a member of Gov. Little’s Coronavirus Workgroup.

Pate said outbreaks in schools did not leak out into the community last school year. But with the Delta variant becoming the primary strain of the virus, Pate believes the more contagious virus will spread in schools leading to a larger community outbreak.

He cites the Secondary Attack Rate – the likelihood someone sick with COVID-19 infects others in the same household – has increased greatly.

“Last year it was 17%, this year it's 53%,” Pate said. “When I go to the store, you know what percent of people are wearing masks that we have recommended to wear masks? Almost none of them. And if you're a kid, it's worse.”

It’s for reasons like this that O’Shea created the West Ada Community for Health and Safety group: to create conversation, to come up with ideas, and to compromise.

“We’ve come up with some great ideas like having a masked-only classroom for each grade,” O’Shea said. “And I thought that was a great idea and we should bring that forward.”

The first day of school for the West Ada School District is August 26.

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