As school districts await guidance from the state on COVID-19 guidance for the coming school year, a group of doctors and teachers’ unions is pushing for masks to be required, among other safety measures.
A letter was sent to Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, signed by the American Academy of Pediatrics Colorado Chapter, the Colorado Association of School Based Health Care, the Colorado Medical Society, the American Federation of Teachers, Colorado chapter, and the Colorado Education Association.
The letter calls on the state and schools to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations for all eligible students, and continue measures like masks, testing, and quarantine protocols for unvaccinated students, including children under 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
Dr. Rusha Lev, a fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics Colorado Chapter, said until the state has a better sense of virus rates and vaccination rates at the beginning of the school year, certain restrictions should stay in place.
“It seems prudent and not too arduous to continue doing something that kids have done very well all year long,” Lev said.
She said the goal of the organizations that penned the letter is to keep school as normal as possible for students by limiting the spread of COVID-19 and the interruptions that can come with outbreaks.
But some parents have recently begun advocating for masks, quarantines and other measures to be lifted before the school year starts. Weld Re-4 parent Brooke Alles said younger children have been least impacted by the virus, and she believes masks inhibit learning.
“Speech therapy in Windsor is done with a mask on the speech therapist and a mask on the student, and I'm not sure how effective that is,” Alles pointed out.
Alles and other parents have also expressed concerns about divisions between students who are vaccinated, and those who are not, pointing out that many parents will be hesitant to vaccinate their younger children.
Lev said data has shown the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
“The safety of the vaccine at this point has been proven, and recently a panel just looked at some concerns about cases of pericarditis or myocarditis, and the feeling was that the benefits still far outweigh the risks,” Lev added.
So far, no K-12 school district in Colorado has indicated plans to require the COVID-19 vaccine. Douglas County School District, the third largest in the state, has already announced plans to discontinue quarantines and mask requirements for all students.