As Boulder County Public Health reminds the community that those 12 years old and younger should wear a face mask in public, school districts are preparing for a year of masked learning.
On Tuesday, the health department in a news release reminded parents that any child older than 2 should wear a face covering in accordance to the county’s indefinite mask order.
“We did not make it a requirement in our face covering Order that children younger than 12 wear a mask because they cannot form the requisite intent to violate the law in the same way that an adult can,” Jeff Zayach, Boulder County Public Health executive director, said in the release.
“But that doesn’t mean we don’t recommend it. We know masks are a very important tool in the tool box along with maintaining social distancing and washing hands frequently.”
The health department has “heard from residents that they are concerned that children — particularly in crowded places such as trails — are not wearing face coverings and subsequently may be putting others who may come near them at risk,” public health spokesperson Chana Goussetis explained.
Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District have both outlined plans for the fall that prepare for variations of in-person learning. With Boulder County’s indefinite mask order, school officials are working through details of what that will look like in schools.
Boulder Valley approved a five-phase school reintroduction plan in June that, depending on public health orders, will either encourage or require masks for all students during arrival, dismissal and when physical distancing is not possible when in-person learning is in effect.
Boulder Valley is preparing educational materials for parents around the health and safety protocols — including masking — ahead of the school year, district Health Services Director Stephanie Faren said.
Faren said the district is waiting for guidance expected from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment concerning K-12 education, which, coupled with local ordinances, will guide future decisions.
Because some parts of Boulder Valley fall in Broomfield County, which does not have a current face mask ordinance, Faren noted that schools there will follow the more restrictive policy of mask wearing.
With the continually changing landscape of the virus, no plan is set in stone, Boulder Valley spokesman Randy Barber acknowledged.
“It’s unfortunate we can’t give more concrete answers right now,” he said. “We are at the mercy of this virus to a point. We are looking at all of the research that’s coming out in alignment with the local and state health departments to make sure we’re making (the best decisions.)”
In the St. Vrain Valley School District, the current plan states students who will attend classes at schools will be required to bring a cloth mask to school daily and be expected to wear it when entering the school and at other times, such as in halls and common areas. Students could be asked to wear masks during “more collaborative discussions” in classrooms, though the district’s reopening plan notes the use of masks will be minimized “whenever possible.”
Further information on what face-covering requirements will look like has not yet been provided to families.
“The evolving nature of this health crisis will require us to remain flexible as we plan for the start of the school year and beyond,” St. Vrain’s website says. “The Governor’s Office, as well as our local and state health departments, could issue a new order at any time that would require us to alter our fall semester reopening plans.
Both districts have said they will share additional details this month on the final plan for the opening of schools.