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West Ada School District preparing to discuss mask policy days before school year begins

“It’s a very split issue so that makes it hard to make everyone happy,” said the district's communication officer.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — West Ada School District (WASD), the state's largest school district, is set to hold a board meeting regarding back-to-school safety protocols on Tuesday.

The meeting will take place just two days before the start of the school year on Thursday. During the meeting, patrons will be able to speak to the board for two minutes each. The board decided to include the option to hear from parents amid the rise in Delta variant COVID-19 cases.

“It’s certainly something that the board of trustees, the administration, and the superintendent takes very seriously," said Char Jackson, the communication officer for WASD. "These patrons are likely parents, they have children. This is the most important thing to them is their child going to school safely."

Thousands of parents, teachers, and students wonder what the first day of school will look like when it comes to masking.

“It’s a very split issue so that makes it hard to make everyone happy,” Jackson said.

As it stands, masks are optional for West Ada schools. However, that could change during the board meeting. Jackson said it's hard to gauge if the majority of parents are for or against masks, stating that there are many people on both sides.

“I’ll be very surprised if we get a mask mandate by the time schools start,” said Josh Jacquot, a West Ada parent who hopes the district will implement a mask mandate for the safety of his children.“Unless we come together on this and we all compromise, we are not going to reach that solution anytime soon."

Dr. David Peterman, the CEO of Primary Health Medical Group, said because many students do not have the ability to get vaccinated, the solution to slowing the spread of the Delta variant is universal masking.

“The last two weeks we are seeing record numbers in our urgent care," Peterman explained. "We normally see maybe 1,000 patients a day in August, we are seeing over 1,500."

In the beginning of July, there were one to two positive COVID-19 cases every two weeks for patients under 18, according to Peterman. Now, there have been more than 75 cases per week.

“I would like to keep our children healthy and our community healthy and something as simple as the staff wearing masks and the children wearing masks in schools, we have very clear evidence it’s effective. It works,” Peterman said.

WASD will have to decide if masks will be optional or mandatory. 

“We want parents to know that the safety of students and staff is a top priority and we want to keep students in school five days a week," Jackson said. "We know that students learn best when they are in-person learning and you know, whatever protocols we might have to take to achieve that, we will consider."

You can watch the full interview with West Ada's superintendent and chair of the board of trustees below.

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