West Grand considers asking students to mask up
Since the beginning of the school year, West Grand School District has seen 49 cases of COVID-19, leading to mass quarantines for the student body and district.
On Wednesday, Interim Superintendent Liz Bauer told a gym full of parents that the district’s current COVID-19 plan, which recommends masking and vaccinating, but does not require either measure, is not working.
“We need to get back to focusing on education, and we haven’t been able to do so to be honest,” Bauer said.
Instead, she outlined a plan to temporarily require masking when a cohort meets a certain threshold of positive cases. Cohorts are the high school, the middle school and individual elementary school grade levels.
For example, if 5% of a cohort tests positive within a two-week period, that cohort would need to wear masks for two weeks.
Though many parents questioned the efficacy of masks, Bauer explained that, under Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s quarantine guidelines, students who are masked don’t have to quarantine when a positive case occurs and this move would allow the school year to proceed with fewer disruptions.
“The only way I know how to keep kids in school and not have these mass quarantines is to ask you to put masks on temporarily when we have a certain threshold,” she said.
District nurse Chelsea Gaines said the temporary masking could also help the district get ahead of the spread. According to the district, about 50% of the COVID cases could be linked to seatmates, close contact during indoor sports and friendships.
“Some of the issues we’ve had the last couple weeks, when we have been conservative with how many kids we send home, is that then we have more spread and we have to chase it,” Gaines said.
The district also continues to work on rolling out serial testing for unvaccinated students. Bauer added that classrooms are spaced out as much as possible but in certain grades, such as second or seventh, there isn’t enough room to achieve the appropriate distancing.
Several parents expressed frustration with the quarantines and changing guidelines, with some suggesting West Grand follow Moffat County’s footsteps and seek to forgo contact tracing and quarantine requirements.
Bauer said if the school district wanted to pursue that option, West Grand would need a waiver from the public health or Grand County commissioners, explaining that’s how Moffat County School District is able to continue to operate.
Additionally, Moffat County schools require masks when the school reaches positivity thresholds, similar to what West Grand is proposing.
According to the Moffat County School District COVID-19 dashboard, the district currently has a total positivity rate of 0.74%, with the highest rate being 2.76% at the early childcare center.
Until West Grand can get a waiver, Bauer said her plan is to present the temporary mask requirements to the school board at the Oct. 12 meeting for their vote.
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