We are so grateful that the BSD Board has voted to end the mask mandate, “based on current conditions”, effective Tuesday 3/8/22. We have waited for months for them to make this decision and they had the resources to do it all along. Most school districts around Idaho have been mask-free all year and the other two remaining mask-required districts dropped their mandates in late February. Reason, research and data showing the negative impact the strict covid protocol are having on BSD students combined with the minimal (or no) impact on covid spread have been ignored. So, what changed? The politics changed, which prompted a change in community transmission level metrics. On 2/25/22, CDC released new metrics and guidance and changed what constitutes low/green, moderate/yellow and high/red community transmission levels. Based on the new metrics, Ada County was in the new “red category” until last Thursday and is now in “yellow”. So, the guidance CDH is now providing to BSD based on these redefined metrics is that masks “can” be optional.
But, if the metrics hadn’t changed, we would still be in the “red” category (174 cases/100k population/week) based on the transmission categories we’ve used all school year up until 2/25/22. CDH would still be recommending universal masking and this meeting would have never taken place. What happens if we see an uptick in transmission or hospitalizations (even if illness severity remains low since the hospitalization metrics don’t differentiate between hospitalized with covid vs. from covid)? We hope the updated Health and Safety Plan is the buffer that will allow the District to “consider” the CDH and hospital administrator guidance rather than “follow” it outright, but we don’t have that guarantee. The Health and Safety plan allows for the District to return to pandemic-type operation and mitigation strategies FOR ANY ILLNESS and the sentiment of re-implementation was echoed repeatedly during the meeting today. Furthermore, Trustee Gregory, who testified on behalf of herself, BSD and the Idaho School Board Association, and a representative from the Idaho Educators' Association (teacher’s union) both testified AGAINST H734 which would ensure mask exemptions in schools, similar to current vaccine exemptions. So, while we are glad the mandate is ended, we do not want it to ever come back. Politics and ever-changing metrics cannot trump personal/parental authority especially for something with consequences and, in the case of masking, no discernible benefit. We are excited that our children and staff will be mask-free as of tomorrow, and want to make sure it stays that way.
Going forward, we will: 1. Continue to communicate with the Board and District Administration about how our children’s education is handled and remind them that local control goes all the way down to the individual/family… it does not stop with the school board. 2. Remember this Board’s culture of control as the trustee election in September approaches. Research the candidates and choose the ones who most align with your values. 3. Remind BSD that their priority is education and making decisions in the best interest of students, not blindly following the recommendations of unelected officials whose interests may not align with BSD’s (CDH, CDC, hospitals, etc.) 4. E-mail the House Representatives in support of H734 Mask Exemptions in Schools so that we are one step closer in the legislative process that would ensure parents always have a choice on whether to mask their children in the future. 5. Grab your gloves and a garbage bag, head to your school, pick up the littered masks on school grounds and #trashthemasksforever 6. Enjoy the smiles on your kids’ faces when you tell them they can throw their mask away and see their classmates’ and teachers’ smiles TOMORROW!!