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News >  Idaho

Boise school board will consider removing its mask mandate. How soon could it happen?

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 10, 2021

Wearing protective masks and keeping social distancing in mind, teacher Donde Llamas helps students form a line Aug. 16 at Morley Nelson Elementary in Boise. The Boise School District board will consider a mask-optional policy for vaccinated students and staff on Monday.  (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)
Wearing protective masks and keeping social distancing in mind, teacher Donde Llamas helps students form a line Aug. 16 at Morley Nelson Elementary in Boise. The Boise School District board will consider a mask-optional policy for vaccinated students and staff on Monday. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman)
By Becca Savransky Idaho Statesman

Students and staff in the Boise School District soon could remove their masks in classrooms.

The Boise school board on Monday will hear from district officials and discuss a potential move to a mask-optional policy, according to the board meeting agenda.

The district, which requires masks for all students and staff, is one of the few remaining in Idaho with a mask mandate in place. Over the past few months, other districts in the Treasure Valley, including West Ada and Caldwell, made masks optional for students and staff.

A preview of the presentation Boise school board trustees are expected to hear Monday was posted on the district’s YouTube account on Thursday. In it, district officials discuss COVID-19 transmission in the community, cases in the schools and input from local health professionals.

In the presentation, the administration suggests the board consider moving to a mask-recommended policy for unvaccinated students and staff and a mask-optional policy for those who are vaccinated. The district could implement the change as early as Jan. 10, when students return for the start of spring semester.

The recommendations include exploring testing options that could allow students to stay in school after exposures to the virus if they aren’t experiencing symptoms. Deputy Superintendent Lisa Roberts said the presentation could be updated before Monday.

St. Luke’s, Saint Al’s officials write letter to board

In a Dec. 2 letter, Dr. Kenny Bramwell from St. Luke’s Health System and Dr. Mark Nassir from Saint Alphonsus Medical Group support a possible move to a mask-optional policy.

The letter points to the accessibility of vaccines for kids ages 5-11 and the recent deactivation of Idaho’s crisis standards of care, which allowed providers to ration health care based on patients’ likelihood of survival.

Vaccines for kids 5-11 became available in Idaho in November. Children in that age group receive a lower dose than those 12 and up, but they still need two doses 21 days apart.

“In light of the above factors regarding this important change, we are supportive of the Boise School District’s consideration of ‘masks recommended’ when students and staff return to school after the holiday break,” the letter said.

The two health officials said the district would need to continue to implement other safety protocols, such as physical distancing and hand washing. The letter doesn’t mention the new omicron variant, which is highly transmissible and has been detected in several states across the U.S., including Washington and Idaho.

“These recommendations are based on current information and trends,” the letter said. “Certainly, if there is a material change such as a new spike in COVID community spread or a significant concern with hospital resources, it would be critical for the board to remain flexible and to reconsider this masking policy change.”

During the week of Nov. 29, the district reported 48 positive COVID-19 cases. That number was up slightly from the week of Nov. 1, when the district reported 32 cases, but still far lower than in September when the district reported a high of 168 cases in one week.

COVID-19 transmission levels in Ada County still remain high, according to Central District Health.

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