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Boise school board approves new face mask requirement

The board of trustees unanimously approved the plan that will require students, teachers and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors.

BOISE, Idaho — On Tuesday night, the Boise School District Board of Trustees approved a new plan of operations for the 2021-2022 school year, which includes a face mask requirement for all students and staff indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

Under pandemic-plan changes approved on July 12, all unvaccinated students, staff and visitors are encouraged to wear masks in school buildings. Masks were optional for students and staff who are vaccinated.

Tuesday's special meeting comes as new COVID-19 cases are again increasing, after a steady decrease that lasted from early April into July. Ada County currently is considered an area of "substantial" spread.

On Monday, the 14-day moving average of new COVID-19 cases reported in Idaho was 296. On Tuesday, the Gem State's average grew to 327.

Central District Health on Friday issued new guidelines for modifying classroom settings during the next school year.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the plan on Tuesday that will require students, teachers and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. 

Deputy Superintendent Lisa Roberts said everyone wearing face masks will help keep students in the classroom five days a week. 

Boise Schools Public Affairs Administrator Dan Hollar said the purpose of Tuesday's meeting was to "brief the trustees on the most recent guidance from health professionals, updated COVID community spread information, and discuss what adjustments may need to be made" to the COVID Operations Plan for this fall.

Roberts added that teachers and staff members have expressed disappointment about going back to wearing face masks, but they understand why needs to happen.

The new plan does not put any limits on group size into place for schools, leaving the decision for limits on gatherings up to individual schools.

“We’re disappointed that we have been forced to take what feels like a step backwards, but our top priority is providing students with a high-quality education in a safe and effective learning environment," Boise School Board President Dave Wagers said.

Prior to Tuesday's meeting, one kindergarten teacher in the Boise School District, Katie, declined to go on camera with KTVB but told The 208 that while she thinks a face mask mandate is coming, she doesn't agree with it.

"Literally every single teacher that I know wants a mask mandate, besides myself," she said.

Katie said she teaches phonics and face masks make it difficult to teach toddlers how to say new words with the right pronunciation when they can't see her face.

She said children have a high survival rate, and she questioned if there has been a child death from COVID. 

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, no children have died from the coronavirus in the Gem State. However, 169 children statewide have been hospitalized and 340 children have died from it nationally.

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