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Parents question West Ada School District's reversal on face mask requirement

The school district suspended opt-outs for the current mask requirement, just two weeks into the school year.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — West Ada School District has once again reversed its decision on face coverings at school. 

The school district suspended opt-outs for the current mask requirement, just two weeks into the school year. The review in the district's COVID-19 safety plan has some parents asking for more comprehensible policies and metrics.

"It's a step in the right direction, it should have come sooner," West Ada parent Josh Jacquot told KTVB about the change.

Jacquot felt frustration when the Board of Trustees voted for masks to be required, yet optional at the same time. He and his family even decided to remove his youngest daughter, who is ineligible for the vaccine, out of West Ada and enroll her in Boise School District because of the face-covering policy.

"It was extremely frustrating to watch them just flatly ignore doctor advice in the meeting," Jacquot said. "Doctors who are pleading to make the choice for masking."

The West Ada dad acknowledged masking up isn't perfect but still believes it is "one small thing" people can do to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He said that not requiring face coverings for everyone took away any safety net for those who want to continue to mask up.

"The question of masking affects everyone you're around and it's frustrating when people ignore that fact in the name of choice," Jacquot said. "They don't work unless everybody is using them."

As of Thursday, West Ada reported that 36.5% of students in the district opted out of the mask requirement.

Superintendent Doctor Derek Bub addressed students and families Wednesday said the delta variant is disrupting the district's daily operations and the state's current case and hospitalization rate made it necessary to revise the district's current COVID-19 safety plan.

"I'm glad Dr. Bub realized universal masking had to be done it may be too little too late but it will only help the safety of the community," Jacquot said.

Although Jacquot and other families and teachers around the district are happier with the suspension of the opt-out, not all parents are.

"My biggest concern is the superintendent's focus on the public health obligations," David Binetti, another West Ada parent. "Between him and the board, there wasn't a single question about their public education obligations."

Binetti has been vocal this past summer about keeping masks optional. He said he would like students to have a normal school year and believes masks are hurting children's education.

"Nobody asked what the impact of learning loss would be, nobody would say whether or not this would continue to reduce the scores," Binetti said about the board's discussion on the change in policy. "We've had a five percent drop in math, we've had a two percent drop in reading."

Binetti would like the board to prioritize education. He cited the code of ethics for the Board of Trustees is for their "first and greatest concern is to be the educational welfare of the students attending the public schools."

"They are focusing on things that are outside of the skill set, outside of their experience, outside of their training," Binetti said,

The board has received guidance from leaders at local hospitals throughout the summer. Although Binetti welcomes those health leaders' input, he believes any recommendations should come from Central District Health.

Both of the West Ada parents agree the district needs to set specific metrics for masks and remote learning, rather than going back and forth. Jacquot said once those are metrics are set, Bub needs to explain them clearly and follow them. 

They would also like to see more conversations happen among community members and district leaders.

"This is a community problem and it requires a community solution," Jacquot said. "Until we have a community that comes together on it, we're not going to get a solution."

The masking requirement applies to all students Pre-K through Grade 12, staff and visitors from Sept. 10 through Sept. 24.

Opt-outs will stand for students who have a medical exemption on file, either in a 504 Plan or IEP.

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