MERIDIAN, Idaho — Less than a week into the school year, more than 12,000 schoolchildren have been opted out of the West Ada School District's face covering requirement.
A total of 32% of the 40,353 students in the district - 12,912 kids - have a parent who formally exempted him or her from wearing a mask in the classroom.
West Ada school board trustees voted Aug. 24 to mandate masks, but offered an avenue for students and staff to get out of the requirement, resulting in thousands of parents lining up at the district office to turn the opt-out form. The signed forms certified that the parents understood that opting out goes against the advice of Central District Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the school district.
COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are surging in Idaho, driven, doctors say, by the more-infectious Delta variant and Idaho's relatively low vaccination rate.
Fewer than half of Idahoans over the age of 12 are fully vaccinated. The vaccine is not yet available to children under 12.
Unvaccinated COVID-19 patients have poured into Idaho hospitals, leaving only a few adult ICU beds left unfilled across the state and stretching hospitals' resources and exhausted employees to their breaking point. Idaho Gov. Brad Little warned Tuesday that the state is on the verge of implementing crisis care standards, in which beds, ventilators, medicine, and even the ability to see a doctor will be reserved only for those deemed most likely to survive.
The school with the highest percentage of children who had been opted out of the requirement is Paramount Elementary in Meridian with 58% of students forgoing a mask, followed by Hunter Elementary with 50% and Pleasant View Elementary and Star Elementary, both with 49% opting out.
The school with the lowest opt-out rate - other than the district's virtual school program, where 2% of students confoundingly opted out of wearing a mask despite being in their own houses - were Ustick Elementary, Rebound High, and Meridian Academy, all with 13%.
Scroll down to see the individual opt-out rates for every school in the West Ada School District.
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