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Eagle County deputies will be at schools Monday due to 'tension' over mask requirements

Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-15 19:51:15-04

DENVER – Deputies will be at Eagle County schools for the first day of classes Monday because of what the sheriff’s office called “tensions in the community” over the school mask requirements announced Friday.

“Our goal is the same as yours, getting our children back to school safely,” Amber Barrett, a spokesperson for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, wrote in a news release. “Law Enforcement is requesting that persons who are wishing to express their opinions not interfere or interrupt the freedom of movement and the functions of schools.”

Eagle County Public Health issued a public health order Friday afternoon requiring masks indoors for students, staff and visitors in grades Pre-K through 8. In grades 9-12, masks are recommended.

The public health department said the order would be relaxed if the seven-day incidence rate for the county goes below 50 per 100,000 or if a school reaches an 80% vaccination rate.

As of Friday, the seven-day incidence rate was 270, according to the county. Nearly 86% of eligible people in Eagle County are currently vaccinated with at least one dose, according to the county. As of Aug. 12, 70% of kids ages 12-15, 84% of kids ages 16-17, and 84% of kids ages 18-19 received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“The community goal of keeping our youth in school is still high on our priority list,” said Heath Harmon, the director of Eagle County Public Health and Environment, in a news release Friday. “With COVID-19 spread as high as it is currently, there will be significant numbers of youth that are testing positive or quarantined as a result of an exposure. If we want to keep our youth in school on a five-day-a-week schedule, masks should be worn while incidence is as high as it is. Reaching a lower incidence or assurance of high vaccination rates at the school level will mean mask usage will become optional.”

Matt Miano, the spokesperson for Eagle County Schools, said the district is hopeful “this is a temporary situation.” He said the district was declining interviews and the intent was “to try and keep this issue apolitical and support the safety of our students and our staff.”

“We want to ensure smooth and stress free openings at all of our schools and for all of our students. We support parents who want to exercise their right to free speech and protest but would prefer that they direct these protests towards the school district office and/or public health offices,” Miano said in an email. “Our students and staff don’t need any more distractions or interference as they begin their school year.”

Eagle County Schools was one of several districts, most of which are along the Front Range, that announced mask requirements on Friday afternoon. The requirements have been met with opposition by some in various districts, including a protest in Jefferson County attended by more than 100 people earlier this month.

“We are requesting that the community partner with us to ensure that our students and schools are safe and secure and our children can start the new year off right,” Barrett said.