GRAND COUNTY, Utah — Acknowledging the divisiveness around requiring masks in schools, Grand County School District Superintendent Taryn Kay said Thursday that the district is relying on medical advice and state data to determine whether to renew the current mandate that is set to expire Oct. 8.
Students in the district have been required to wear masks since the beginning of the school year.
In a letter to parents, teachers, students, and community members, Kay pushed back against complaints from community members saying their input hasn't been heard, stating that it had been considered, but the original decision was made using the best information available.
"One of the statements I often hear is, 'My child, my choice.' COVID doesn’t follow that sentiment," wrote Kay. "If a child in a classroom is unmasked, and carrying the COVID virus, he/she can cause other students in the class to contract COVID. In that situation, a parent is making the choice for another parent’s child . . . "
"Further, the situation with COVID and mask wearing is not unique - there are many situations involved in school district operations that don’t involve parent choice. Some of these include: the dress code ... the subjects that are taught, and the curriculum that is used to teach most required subjects."
Kay explained the goal of the school district is to adopt a layered approach of COVID-19 mitigation, which includes distancing, air filters, increased cleaning practices, and the wearing of masks.
"GCSD supports the mask mandate because we know that when students wear masks they are more protected than when they do not. There are fewer absences when a mask mandate is in place. Fewer students have to quarantine. There are significantly fewer cases of COVID and less spread of COVID at school when a mask mandate is in place," Kay explained in her letter.
"Recent research from the CDC and ASU has shown that when local metrics dictate that COVID cases are high, schools with mask mandates are better able to provide ongoing in person instruction for their students. That is the goal of GCSD staff, and why, as long as local metrics indicate the need, we will continue to support a preK-12 mask mandate."
A decision whether to continue the mandate will be decided after a review of the current Grand County transmission status, the percentage of positive COVID-19 cases, and the availability of both pediatric and adult ICU beds in the region, among other factors.
The public will be informed about the status of the mask mandate after October 8.