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Emmett schools will require face masks following Thanksgiving break

The mask requirement will begin Nov. 30 and run three weeks until the semester's end on Dec. 18.

EMMETT, Idaho — The Emmett School District board of trustees voted Monday to mandate face coverings for all students and staff beginning after Thanksgiving break. 

The 4-1 vote to accept Superintendent Craig Woods' recommendation for masks came during a special board meeting. Trustee Mike Garner was the only member to vote against it. 

The mask requirement will begin Nov. 30 and run three weeks until the semester's end on Dec. 18.

RELATED: Emmett School District superintendent asks students, staff to take quarantine guidelines seriously

Students with documented health reasons why they cannot wear a face covering will be exempted. Those who do not wish to follow the mask rules may enroll in the Emmett Remote Academy program.

In a survey, 68% out 954 parents in the district and 66% of 400 secondary students said they wanted to see school continue being held in person. Out of 195 staff members, 42 percent felt the same. 

“We’ve said all along that our No. 1 goal has been to keep all students in the classrooms for face-to-face learning while keeping students and staff safe,” Woods said in a statement, adding that making face coverings mandatory was a way to preserve that ability.

RELATED: Boise School District to return to remote-only learning after Thanksgiving break

So far, Gem County has had 542 confirmed COVID-19 cases and five deaths. Valor Health Hospital in Emmett, which has also backed requiring masks in the schools, reported a 24.42% 30-day rolling positivity rate.

Between Nov. 3 and Nov. 16, 145 students and staff have been quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus. The district had 53 suspected cases in that same two-week span, 26 confirmed cases, and one probable case.

RELATED: Coronavirus cases increasing in Southwest Idaho schools: 'We're starting to see quite a bit of concern'

“I personally feel the Emmett School District must do our part to help slow the spread of the virus and take some of the strain off the health care facilities in Gem County and the Treasure Valley," Woods said. "The Emmett School District can continue to be a model of face-to-face instruction and provide a safe environment for teaching while also showing that we care for our greater community by requiring face coverings for a set period of time.”

At the next special board meeting, set for Nov. 30, trustees will take up whether to exempt students and staff who have already had COVID-19 from the mask requirement, as well as whether students and staff members who were in close contact with a confirmed case while wearing a mask can be exempted from the mandatory quarantine period, as long as they are not showing symptoms.

RELATED: Emmett High School to shut down Friday after positive coronavirus test

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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