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Weiser students required to wear a mask in school for the next month

The Board of Trustees has voted to institute several strategies over the next month that are intended to reduce the spread of illness on campus.
Credit: KTVB
Students wearing masks in a classroom. (file photo)

WEISER, Idaho — The Weiser School District has become the latest in Idaho to require students and staff to wear a mask inside buildings while school is in session.

Superintendent Wade Wilson wrote a letter to parents Wednesday announcing that Board of Trustees has voted to institute several strategies over the next month that are intended to reduce the spread of illness and help break the current cycle of absenteeism.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the death of a Weiser Middle School math teacher. Marie Thomas' death is believed to be from COVID-19, according to the district.

Wilson said that it has been challenging to keep schools open for in-person learning because of illness among both students and staff. There is currently a low number of substitute teachers available in the district and they are unable to cover all those positions on a daily basis. During the past week, as many as 12 positions were not filled on a single day.

Staff members are being shifted around to cover the areas of greatest need, but Wilson says that’s not sufficient. Park School was closed for two days this week due to a lack of staffing. This is a problem throughout the district.

When someone misses school because of COVID-19 they usually are out for several days.

The Board of Trustees approved that a mask mandate be put in place from Monday, September 13 through Wednesday, October 13. Trustees will re-evaluate conditions at their regularly scheduled meeting on October 13.

Wilson wrote that everyone's help is needed in order to disrupt the cycle of absenteeism in the district.

I understand that masking is controversial and unpopular with some, however, again, I'm asking for your cooperation and help. Illness and absenteeism are high in all of our buildings, and we need to do all that we can in order to maintain in-person learning and avoid rolling school closures that disrupt families and student learning, avoid implementing alternate school schedules, and avoid a return to remote teaching and learning which was frustrating and ineffective for many last year. No matter your position as it pertains to masking, if a little change can help us to level out absenteeism so that it is once again manageable, and we can maintain our current programming, then it is a win for all of us.

Masks must be worn by all students and staff when they are in buildings and classrooms during the school day. This includes immediately before and after school when students are arriving or leaving.

There are some exceptions to the mask mandate:

  • When eating
  • When participating in activities such as speech therapy, playing a wind instrument, or during other special scenarios that require the removal of a mask
  • When only one person is in a room

Masks are not required:

  • Outside of a building
  • On a school bus
  • At after school events such as sports

Other temporary strategies to be implemented include:

  • Suspend the use of non-essential classroom volunteers and visitors
  • Restrict visitors during the day to the main office area
  • Increase efforts to provide distance between desks and between students in classrooms
  • Expand eating area options at schools and allow students to eat in classrooms, outside, or in other locations besides the cafeteria
  • Limit staff release for professional development when a substitute is required
  • Ensure sanitizer is available in all classrooms and work spaces

Wilson says these strategies are intended to help us slow the possible spread of illness in schools, maintain healthy staff and student numbers to offer effective in-person learning, and though they may be inconvenient for a while, the hope is it will lead to normal school conditions as quickly as possible. It will take everyone working together to make them a success.

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