Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho Lt. Gov. McGeachin, challenger to Little, prohibits school mask mandates while he’s out of town

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin announces her bid for governor May 19 at Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Officials at Coeur d’Alene Schools are considering their options after Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin signed an executive order Thursday prohibiting mask mandates throughout the state.

With Gov. Brad Little out of the state at a Nashville, Tennessee, Republican Governors Association conference, McGeachin made the surprise move Thursday morning. It took effect at 10 a.m. PDT.

McGeachin made the decision without consulting Little’s office or alerting school districts. McGeachin announced earlier this month that she’s challenging Little for governor.

Little’s office didn’t say what Little would do when he returned late Thursday, but it did say residents value local control.

“It’s just especially hard for me to see the little kids being forced to wear a mask in school,” McGeachin told Idaho Reports.

The decision is problematic for Lake City High School, where COVID-19 made a major comeback earlier this month.

Since April 26, at least two dozen LCHS students have tested positive for the virus. As a result, Principal Deanna Clifford ordered all students there to wear masks through the end of the school year on June 11.

Coeur d’Alene school officials were weighing their options Thursday afternoon.

“We are aware of the executive order issued earlier today by the lieutenant governor, acting in the absence of the governor,” said Scott Maben, the district’s director of communications, in a statement. “The District did not have advance notice of this action and was not prepared to alter operations or expectations today at Lake City High School, where masks are still required due to the current COVID-19 case outbreak among students there.”

The district added that the district is consulting with legal counsel and with Little’s office.

“Board Policy 1207 concerning when masks may be required in schools remains in effect,” Maben added. “When we have clarity on these questions we will provide an update for the students, parents and staff at Lake City High School.”

Since the pandemic began 14 months ago, Little has deferred to local agencies, including school boards, to make their own rules on masks.