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Opt out mask measure causes confusion for Douglas County parents, students

Posted at 5:49 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 07:49:51-04

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — A new public health order from the newly formed Douglas County Health Department is leading to mixed messages from various public officials with teachers and students caught in the middle.

On Friday afternoon, the board voted on a measure that would allow parents to opt their kids out of mask requirements and do away with most quarantines for students.

In addition to the parameters for children, the board amended a draft version of the public health order to also allow the opt-outs to apply to adults as well.

Ever since the vote, various public officials — from the Douglas County School District superintendent to the county commissioners to individual school principals — have issued statements attempting to clarify how the new ordinance should be applied in a school setting.

Superintendent Corey Wise issued a statement on Saturday acknowledging the new health order and said the district is continuing to review potential impacts. He added they are also in discussions with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to determine who will provide services to the school system in the future.

Wise said in a statement, "The Douglas County School District strongly encourages universal mask-wearing in school and electing to quarantine or isolate if exposed to a known COVID-19 positive case."

Douglas County Commissions also provided a statement that said, "The Douglas County Board of Health public health order is clear. What is unclear and is creating confusion among families is the school district’s recent statement, in response to the order ... recommending that students mask."

Attempts to clarify the order continued late Sunday evening with the Douglas County School District issuing another letter.

"It’s like a tug-of-war and teachers are in the middle," said Kevin DiPasquale, president of the Douglas County Federation.

He said teachers have been contacting him throughout the weekend to ask for guidance and express their concern over the new health order.

"Not having an ability to have a consistent message in the classroom makes the job that much more difficult, so it’s really important that the leaders in our community come together and support teachers, support our schools, support students," DiPasquale said.

Parents like Chad Cox are trying to prepare their kids for the school week because it's hard to explain to a 7-year-old why some students in his son's class might not be wearing a mask.

"Honestly, they’re not going to understand at the end of the day, but we just try to be honest with them and say their parents have choices that they make that we don’t agree with," Cox said.