West Ada, Caldwell drop mask requirements

Following a unanimous vote by the West Ada school board on Tuesday night, the 2021-2022 school year is set to look a little more normal, as trustees voted to return the district to a full school week and remove the face mask requirement that is currently in the dress code.

“We may not have to talk about masks again, at the board level,” Chair Amy Johnson said with a laugh just before the board voted.

Members of the West Ada School District Board of Trustees, as well as incoming Superintendent Derek Bub and outgoing Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells, listen to a speaking during a meeting on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.

The vote to accept the district administration’s recommendation (which was presented by incoming Superintendent Derek Bub) was unanimous. Masks will be optional in the district starting on  Thursday. Assistant Superintendent Bret Heller said making the change on Thursday was the top recommendation from school principals, as it allows families a day to discuss mask wearing. There are still some modified-schedule schools in West Ada that are approaching the end of the school year.

While the recommendation was presented to the board by Bub, who will be the new superintendent starting on July 1, Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells also said she supported the change.

The change comes just over a month after West Ada trustees unanimously decided to keep the mask mandate while indoors for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

During the May 11 meeting, the board voted on three mask-related items:

  • Students are required to wear face coverings while indoors. Masks are optional while outdoors, before school, after school, during recess, meals and other outdoor activities.
  • Masks will be optional during the summer, this includes during summer school, summer instruction programs and other summer activities.
  • West Ada administration and the trustees will determine mask requirements in a board meeting prior to the next school year.

While some parents were happy about the board making masks optional outside and saying they would revisit the mandate in the future, some were upset at how vague the timeline was.

During the May 25 meeting, Board Chair Amy Johnson asked incoming Superintendent Derek Bub for a timeline and a process for when the mask mandate could be addressed again. Bub requested the June 15 time to issue a flexible proposal for district patrons.

The new Pandemic Operating Plan also includes new authority for the superintendent, adding the ability to implement a mask requirement when needed.

One concern was brought up by Trustee Ed Klopfenstein, asking about elementary-aged students who still are not able to be vaccinated. Bub said the district will be keeping other protocols in place, like air circulation and sanitization of surfaces, adding that elementary classes are easier to separate from the rest of the school in case there is an outbreak.

Caldwell also makes the change

Face coverings are also optional for students and staff in the Caldwell School District after trustees voted to change the mask policy from required to recommended.

Neighboring Nampa voted to make masks optional on May 17.

Caldwell’s policy was also changed to say that masks may become required as needed “should outbreaks in schools occur in the future.”

While the 2020-2021 school year has been over for weeks, the change to the mask policy will affect students who are taking summer school, including those in the district’s Summer Bridge Program.

The board is whole again

Patricia Robertson

Caldwell’s Board of Trustees is back up to five members, after Patricia Robertson was sworn in to the Zone 1 seat during Monday’s meeting.

Robertson is replacing Claudia Suastegui, who announced in March that she would have to resign her position because she was moving out of Zone 1.

Robertson was appointed to the position during the May 17 meeting. She was one of just two applicants, with the second applicant rescinding their application on the day of the interviews. The vote to approve Robertson was unanimous.

 

 

Nik Streng

About Nik Streng

Nik Streng graduated with his bachelors degree in creative writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., in 2013 and graduated with his master’s in journalism from the University of Oregon. 

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