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Salt Lake City mayor wants to order K-6 school mask mandate

School Masks
Posted at 2:41 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 00:58:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City’s mayor wants young students masked when school starts next week.

Mayor Erin Mendenhall said city attorneys found a loophole that gives her legal authority to issue the requirement.

On Tuesday, Mendenhall asked the Salt Lake City School Board to recommend a mask requirement for children in kindergarten to sixth grades. If they do, she said she will sign off on it before school starts.

"My number one concern right now is the health and safety of our unvaccinated kids,” Mendenhall told FOX 13 News.

During a special session of the legislature, laws were enacted to specifically limit the authority of local health departments and the governor, but not mayors, according to Mendenhall.

READ: Salt Lake County Council votes 6-3 to overturn school mask order

“Our city attorney’s office conducted a thorough assessment of the legal options and what I’m able to do as the mayor. They feel confident and I feel confident in the analysis that we do have the authority,” said Mendenhall.

Mendenhall believes Salt Lake County Council used “political reasons” to override a similar order last week issued by the Salt Lake County Health Department and Dr. Angela Dunn.

“If she feels confident that she can move this forward, I would commend her,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson.

The local teacher union tells FOX 13 News they support masking children too young to be vaccinated.

“A lot of teachers are concerned. Just for COVID numbers that are going up because of the delta variant in younger children,” said Salt Lake Education Association spokesperson James Tobler.

READ: Grand County announces indoor mask requirement for K-6 students

The school board will need to hold an emergency meeting before class starts. However, it is unclear if they will.

The Salt Lake City School District said in a statement:

"While we share Mayor Mendenhall’s concern, various state statutes currently appear to limit our ability to enforce a mask mandate. Therefore, we are seeking a legal opinion on what actions a local school board can take regarding masking in schools within the scope of state law.”