DENVER – The Douglas County School District will require students in preschool through sixth grade, and staff that work with those students, to wear masks while indoors starting Monday.
The district made the announcement in a letter to families and staff Friday morning – a day after Douglas County commissioners voted to opt out of the Tri-County Health Department’s mask mandate for students ages 2-11 issued earlier this week.
The district had said Tuesday after the TCHD board voted in favor of the mask mandate that it would move forward with the requirement, but it did not respond to requests for comment after Thursday’s decision by the county commissioners.
Douglas County School District Superintendent Corey Wise said in the email to families and staff that as a separate entity from the board of commissioners, it can operate within its own policies.
“We recognize the COVID pandemic has been incredibly challenging for our students, families, and staff,” Wise wrote. “We continue to navigate the complexities of our current circumstances, and we empathize with the varying emotions regarding COVID mitigation in our schools. However, please know that our goal is to keep our students and staff safe and in the classroom for in-person learning.”
Wise added that masks will not be required for students in grades 7-12 for the time being, but it is “strongly recommended” all students and staff wear masks indoors regardless of whether they are vaccinated. Wise said 94% of sixth-grade students were in the age 2-11 age group, which is why they are included in the requirements. Certain exemptions will be allowed, the superintendent wrote.
“We will honor mask-wearing exemptions for students who cannot tolerate a face covering due to medical or mental health reasons as provided by a qualified healthcare provider,” Wise said.
Thousands of people signed up to submit public comment, or wrote in, to both the TCHD and Douglas County board of commissioners both in favor of and in opposition to the requirements earlier this week – with more vocally opposed to them than supportive.
But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and TCHD have both recommended kids under age 12 – who cannot get vaccinated against COVID-19 for the time being – wear masks indoors in order to brunt the spread of the virus and the more easily transmissible delta variant that now dominates the state.
The teacher’s union for Douglas County told Denver7 Thursday it supported mask requirements in elementary schools.
Most other school districts in the metro area are requiring masks at least for students under age 12, though Denver Public Schools will require them for all students, staff and visitors.
For more on the Douglas County School District’s plans this year, click here.