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District 93 board votes to tentatively remove mask mandate starting March 8

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AMMON — Bonneville Joint School District 93 is expected to drop its mask mandate on March 8, following a decision by its school board Thursday.

The change, which corresponds with the start of the next trimester, is contingent on the number of active cases in the district staying below 25 before the trimester begins.

Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme told that a lot of thought and discussion went into making the decision, but it wasn’t easy.

Up until recently, the district has been under the same mask mandate Eastern Idaho Public Health placed on Bonneville County. EIPH lifted their mandate Monday, allowing the district to make their own decision on masks for the first time.

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

“We all believe wearing masks is the right thing to do. We still believe students should be wearing masks to school,” Woolstenhulme added. “But we ultimately believe that it is the parent’s responsibility (to determine whether or not their kids wear masks).”

Currently, the district is in Stage 2 of their 4-stage Pandemic Response Plan. Stage 2 requires masks when social distancing isn’t possible.

If cases remain low, the district will move into Stage 1 with the change of the trimester. In this stage, masks are strongly encouraged, but not required. Although individual teachers, bus drivers, coaches, advisors, or school principals still have the authority to require masks in their respective areas.

Woolstenhulme clarified this phase change does not change the instructional calendar. All schools will stay on the same structure they have been on, which includes 5-day a week instruction for elementary schools, with the second and fourth Mondays off, and 4-day a week instruction for middle and high schools, with Mondays mornings available for student help and online learning.

Under the new phase, if a student who does not wear a mask becomes exposed to COVID-19, they are required to quarantine. If students are wearing masks when they are exposed, a quarantine will not be required.

Waiting until March 8 is done on purpose. First, it allows enough time for those in the district who got vaccinated to see it reach its full effects. The vaccine takes 14 days after the second dose before full immunity can be reached, and the new trimester is currently more than three weeks away.

Additionally, waiting gives plenty of time for parents to plan and make changes if they deem it necessary.

If parents wish to enroll their students in District 93’s online program, they can fill out this form and a D93 Online teacher or principal will reach out to you.

On the other hand, if students who have been in the online program wish to return to their regular schools, parents should contact school principals and ask what the availability is.

“We can’t promise anything, … but we will try our best to accommodate,” Woolstenhulme explained.

For any questions, Dr. Woolstenhulme will be hosting live meetings on the District’s Facebook page Wednesday, Feb 17; and Monday, Feb 22 at 8 p.m. Questions can be sent through email at [email protected] or can be asked directly by joining the Zoom meeting here.

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