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Mask mandate remains in D91, possibility of extending in-person learning to be discussed later

Education

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Justin Benziger | EastIdahoNews.com

IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Falls School District 91 Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to keep current mask mandates in their school buildings at least until Feb. 23. That’s also the date the board could decide on whether to have students return to classrooms on Fridays rather than participating in online learning.

Current mandates require that masks to be worn inside school buildings where social distancing isn’t possible.

Eastern Idaho Public Health lifted mask mandates in Bonneville County Monday but health officials still recommended individuals used proper safety protocols.

RELATED: Face mask order lifted in Bonneville County but public health officials still urging caution

The main concern of lifting the mandate across the school district is faculty members who have not been able to receive full immunity from their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Some teachers and staff members are scheduled to receive their second dose Friday and immunity would not go fully into effect until Feb. 26.

The board approved a motion brought up by trustee Hillary Radcliffe that the mask mandate will last only until the next work session scheduled for Feb. 23. This will allow time to discuss changes before the district’s third trimester begins on March 8.

Before the vote, Idaho Education Association representative Angela Gillman told the board that a survey sent to teachers showed 80% of faculty wanted the mask mandate to remain, 10% voted to remove the mandate and 9% stated they were neutral.

Trustee Larry Wilson mentioned he had reached out to the 18 principals and school directors in the district and out of the 16 that responded, 15 recommended the district keep the mask mandate as it currently stands.

Chairwoman Lara Hill spoke about the importance she sees in keeping the mandate clear and defined.

“We need to have some specific clear language as a district,” she told the board. “It gives that extra protection layer there for everyone involved.”

Trustee Paul Haacke was vocal about allowing teachers to decide mask standards for their classrooms since the county has lifted the mask mandate.

“I would hope that we can respect each other,” Haacke said.

The board ultimately decided to do more research and gather information to make a more informed decision at the next work session and allow for those who received the vaccine the appropriate time to reach full immunity.

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