West Ada Letter To Parents Outlining Mask Policy
As we reported recently here, the State's largest school district has scrapped its plan allowing students, teachers, and staff to opt out of wearing a mask during the school day. A group of parents successfully lobbied the school board to allow students to opt-out of mask-wearing with their parent's permission.
The school board announced that the opt-out option is overdue to the growing Covid infections spreading throughout the school system. Parents have taken to social media to complain about the new policy. One parent described their frustration when a teacher sent their child home for not following the new mask policy.
We've viewed another video of students outside the brand new Owyhee High School waving flags from the beds of pickup trucks singing the national anthem while not wearing a mask. Another parent is looking for a new school because she will not approve of her child wearing a mask.
In contrast to the mandatory mask mandates of Boise, Meridian, and Caldwell, the Nampa School District voted this week to allow students to attend classes maskless. KTVB reports that the trustees voted 2-2 to implement a mask mandate. The motion failed without a majority vote.
West Ada is dealing with the loss of a teacher who died due to Covid complications, reports the Idaho Statesman. Twenty-year teacher Mike McCrady coached and taught at Rocky Mountain High School. We have obtained the letter sent to local parents from West Ada Superintendent Dr. Derek Bub.
You can read the letter below:
West Ada School Community,
The introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic into our schools has forced West Ada School District to be agile in our planning and safety protocols. Going into the current school year, our goal was to begin as normal as possible, with flexible mitigating measures in place that allowed our students to stay in-person learning five days per week. Unfortunately, the Delta variant is wreaking havoc on our state, local community, and is substantially disrupting our daily operations. As cases and hospitalizations are near record levels, West Ada has deemed it necessary to review our current COVID-19 safety plan and make the following change:
- To protect staff and students from the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, West Ada School District is temporarily requiring all staff, students and visitors to wear masks when in a classroom and/or when social distancing is not possible, thus suspending all mask opt outs.
- Why is WASD implementing a mask requirement?
- The CDH and Ada County Health officials have identified the COVID-19 transmission alert level in Boise and Ada Counties as red (high community transmission) and report that hospitalizations are rising at the fastest rate since the pandemic began, among all age groups, including youth.
- Our local hospitals expect to face a crisis standard of care in the coming days. Northern Idaho hospitals and the Panhandle & North Central Health Districts have moved to a "crisis standard of care" due to a severe shortage of staffing and available beds in the northern area of the State caused by a massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.
- Student quarantines throughout the district are increasing in number at various school sites. As a result, school administrators and nurses district-wide are dedicating a large portion of their time to contact tracing, diverting them from their daily obligations and instructional leadership. Thus, a universal mask requirement, as opposed to a school-by-school requirement, has been put in place.
- A significant shortage of qualified substitute teachers is being experienced nationwide. As an organization, West Ada experiences an average of 35% unfilled substitute jobs daily.
- Who does the mask requirement apply to?
- The mask requirement applies to all students (Pre-K-12), staff and visitors.
- How long will the mask requirement be in place?
- While an exact timeframe has not been determined, a temporary mask requirement will be put in place from September 10 through September 24 (two weeks).
- How do I properly wear a face mask?
- A face mask should cover the chin, nose, and mouth, whenever in the classroom and/or where social distancing is not possible.
- What if I submitted a mask opt-out form for my student?
- West Ada School District will be temporarily suspending all mask opt-outs received from families and implementing a mask requirement for all students and staff beginning Friday, September 10.
- What if my child has a medical mask exemption on file with the School Nurse?
- Medical exemptions on file with a student's School Nurse or with Special Services in the form of a 504 Plan or an IEP will remain in place.
- Please note: Students who have a medical mask exemption on file and who wear a face shield or do not wear a mask in the classroom and/or when social distancing is not possible, will not qualify for the Quarantine Release Program (QRP).
- When will the mask requirement be re-evaluated?
- WASD will review the mask requirement on September 22 to determine whether the mask requirement can be lifted, and opt-outs restored, or if an extension in the mask requirement is necessary.
- What information will be used when re-evaluating the mask requirement?
- West Ada School District will evaluate conditions and look at data before the mask policy is set to expire as we make decisions for the remainder of the first semester. The determination to lift or extend the temporary mask requirement policy will be based on COVID-19 data from the school district and local health care system.
- How will this affect students involved in extracurricular activities?
- Student athletes, band members and all students involved in indoor and outdoor extracurricular activities, including coaches, should social distance as much as possible and are encouraged, but not required, to wear a face mask when actively engaging in physical activities.
- Will staff be required to wear a mask in their office/classroom?
- As per the guidance sent out earlier this week, all staff are required to wear a face mask in the classroom.
- Will the district provide masks to students and staff?
- West Ada will continue to provide supplemental masks and sanitizer at district schools and facilities.
- Will WASD continue with contact tracing?
- WASD will continue with contact tracing during the 2021-2022 school year. If there is a positive case identified at a campus, the school's COVID-19 Response Team will identify and notify close contacts. The district will also continue collaborating with local and county health officials as needed.
As one of the largest organizations in the Treasure Valley, as well as the State, we believe that we have a public health obligation. The virus has evolved, and so must we. Implementing a mask requirement for students (Pre-K-12) and staff is one way that West Ada can make a positive contribution to the community. While we are not convinced that this will solve the COVID-19 pandemic, as leaders, we feel obligated to do our part.
We are committed to working with our families, students, and staff to keep schools open, while prioritizing the health of our school communities. Your support and encouragement for our children during this challenging time as well as your compassion and respect for one another is greatly appreciated. We appreciate your commitment to your children and thank you in advance for your support of the temporary mask requirement while we make every effort for our students to remain in school.
As a school community I know we are all dedicated to providing the best for our children. I thank you for your continued encouragement, love, acceptance and open-mindedness as we tackle these challenging times together.
Reflect, Embrace, Build,
Dr. Derek Bub, Superintendent of Schools
West Ada School District