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Parents, teachers weigh in on mask mandate ending in schools

Posted at 9:28 PM, May 13, 2021

WEST JORDAN, Utah — Near the end of school Thursday, the news began to circulate.

Kids flooded out of West Jordan Middle School after the last bell, with masks over their faces and hanging around their chins.

They learned those days are coming to an end sooner than many people could have predicted.

"Yeah, I'm very surprised," said seventh grader Jessie Rivera. "I didn't think they were actually going to do this."

But "they"-- as in the State of Utah and school districts including the Jordan School District-- did indeed "do this": Drop the mask mandate in school, for the last week of classes.

While some kids like Jessie were surprised, others felt like it was coming after watching mask mandates everywhere else fall by the wayside.

Read - Which Utah school districts will follow 'last week' no mask direction?

"I'd be really happy because I'd actually be able to see my friends and all the other people that I actually care about," said ninth grader Warren Caplinger.

For them, it's a chance to see classmates and friends, full faced, for the last week of school. End what's been a strange year, on a somewhat normal note.

Many parents couldn't agree more.

If Governor Spencer Cox and the Jordan School District approve, some West Jordan Middle School parents said, then schools should go for it.

"I'm cool with that," said Warren "Hawk" Caplinger, whose son shares the same name. "It's about time. I think everybody should be able to be without masks for a while."

Others, like Jessie's mother Cecy Rivera, aren't sure how they feel. Cecy was just as surprised as her son to hear the news.

"I think it's good but at the same time it's bad, because we don't know if we're going to get sick again or not," she said.

Read - Cox orders end of K-12 mask mandate for last week of school

She would have liked to keep the mask mandate going to finish out the year.

The Utah Education Assocation (UEA) agrees with her.

"We will see, and we already today have seen so many phone calls, so many emails from educators across the state saying, 'I don't know what this is going to mean for me,'" said Heidi Matthews, UEA President.

Matthews described how this puts the medically vulnerable in a tough spot. They've already heard that some teachers won't even send their own children to the last week of school, because they don't feel it's safe.

But the teachers themselves have no choice, she indicated. She said that teachers were planning on the mandate lasting until the end of the school year.

While many educators involved in UEA are happy with the decision, Matthews said they have a responsibility to assure the rights and safety of educators in schools.

"It's our most vulnerable who are impacted by this decision, and their voices did not get into the room. Their voices were not considered in this," Matthews said.

For those teachers who aren't comfortable and for some kids at West Jordan Middle School, mask wearing will continue despite the decision.

Cecy said she will make sure Jessie continues to wear his mask. While she thought Jessie would be resistant to it, he seemed to go along with his mother's decision.

"Especially if my mom says that I'll wear it, then I'll wear it," Jessie said.

Jane Atwood said she will make sure her ninth grade daughter with asthma also continues to wear a mask, just because her daughter is more susceptible to COVID-19.

But she doesn't mind that the mandate is ending before school is out.

"It doesn't bother me either way, we've been around family and everything without masks," Atwood said. "So, I'm not too worried about, as long as my kids have theirs on."