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Treasure Valley school districts: Masks still optional following recent national and state recommendations

Other infection-prevention measures "are going to allow us to keep kids in schools," said a spokesperson for the West Ada district.

BOISE, Idaho — School districts across the Treasure Valley have decided to make masks optional as many gear up for the new school year to begin in less than one month.  

The Boise, Kuna, West Ada, Caldwell and Nampa school districts all decided to lift their mask mandates following the CDC recommendation on July 9, which said unvaccinated staff and students should wear masks in a school setting.

On Monday, July 19, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that regardless of vaccination status, all children over the age of 2 should wear a mask.

“We know that schools are very busily planning, and some of them have already decided that they will not be requiring masks or social distancing, and we are concerned that we might see spread in the fall of Delta,” said State Epidemiologist Christine Hahn.

Hahn said there’s no scientific reason to not wear masks, and believes that for schools, it’s a policy decision.

“Our process for keeping kids in school, we don't have a mask mandate in order to do that. We believe that our other infection-prevention measures are going to allow us to keep kids in schools,” said Char Jackson, the chief communication officer for the West Ada School District.

In the fall, West Ada School District will practice social distancing and keep sanitization practices around, but after looking at case counts as well as feedback from parents, teachers, students and health professionals, masking up will remain an option rather than a requirement.

“We do realize that this is a piece of health professional guidance, but it is just guidance, and it is national guidance, and we are Idaho. So we are looking at it from an Idaho-specific, West Ada-specific, standpoint, and we are trying to make the best decision for all of our students involved,” Jackson said.

Mandy Simpson, chair of the Nampa School District Board of Trustees, said the district is choosing not to implement a mask mandate after considering feedback from parents and information from local health professionals.

“Based on where we were before that decision was made in this last month, all information was pointing in a different direction,” Simpson said.

Simpson noted that case counts are on the rise again, and the districts will need to consider that in any decisions made moving forward.

Officials with the Boise School District said they will also need to monitor case counts and recommendations from health care professionals moving forward.

"If changes are necessary before school starts due to local, state or national information or guidance, including that from the American Academy of Pediatrics, we will be sure to consider making such changes," said a written statement from the Boise School District.

Boise, West Ada and Nampa school districts are offering online learning for the upcoming school year.

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