DEL NORTE- During a special meeting held by the Upper Rio Grande School District (URGSD) Board of Education voted to continue with the school’s mask protocol despite some requests from parents and staff. The school recently finished it’s first week of in person learning and though the week ended up being only two full days, the school administrative staff reported that students were complying with the mask requirements and that it was going better than anticipated.
School Board President Neal Walters opened the conversation stating that the mask mandate was extended by Governor Jared Polis on Saturday, September 12 and asked school Superintendent Chris Burr what options the board may have to create their own mask requirements and procedures. “I think we have several options and I just think the board needs to discuss those option and to know what we are doing going forward,” stated Burr.
Burr explained that the school could keep doing what they were doing now, which is to be more stringent with the mask requirements compared to state mandates, they could follow the mandate as written and not make students under the age of 10 wear masks or they could come up with their own procedure and request variances.
Burr stated that he felt that it was in the best interest of the school to continue to be more stringent on the mask requirements and ask that all students, teachers and staff in the school wear masks and wait to see how the state mask order works out. Burr also provided the board with charts from different areas around the US and beyond that could be found on the CDC website that showed COVID-19 spikes happening after mask mandates were put in place. “We need to ask what is possible in our school and do what is best for our school.”
Elementary School Principal Amy Duda and Highschool Principal Aaron Horrocks gave the board some feedback about how the first two days went at the school stating that the students were more or less just happy to be back in school and that they had no issues with students.
“I feel it went better than I thought it was going to, but it is not the ideal way to learn. We were yelling all day, all the adults, so that we could be heard, students were taking off their masks in order to sneeze, which completely defeats the purpose of a mask and there were about five or six students each day that came without a mask and we provided them with one,” said Duda.
Horrocks agreed with Duda stating that he also noted that students seemed to just be happy to be back in school and that all students seemed to be complying. Duda ended their update to the board stating that the mask requirement was working for now but that it was no way to operate in the long run.
“I do not think that we should try to do our own mandate. The Governor is making it impossible for counties to get variances right now. I suggest what we do, is keep doing what we did for those last two days. I still, as your superintendent have no interest in putting a mandatory policy in place that would have to be enforced to require masks. I will not participate in enforcing the Governor’s law in that way. I believe we can ask students to wear their masks and I believe they will,” stated Burr.
Burr also stated that there could potentially be teachers telling students that they will be suspended if they are not wearing a mask, “Please know that that teacher or any teacher does not have the power to suspend students. I will not support a school suspension for a student not wearing a mask. I will ask the child to wear the mask because that is what our Governor is demanding but I will not support that kind of action.”
The board voted unanimously to keep their current mask requirements in place for the next month and will wait to see what the Governor chooses to do at that time.