Bonneville implements mask mandate

East Idaho’s largest school district will require its students and staff to start masking up next week.

A spike in COVID-19 cases prompted the Bonneville School District to shift to a high-risk phase that requires masks, Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme announced in a YouTube video. The change goes into effect Monday, Oct. 4.

Scott Woolstenhulme

“We have a number of employees that have been hospitalized with infections,” Woolstenhulme said. “We’ve had a high number of students that have been out of school or missing school with COVID.”

Bonneville saw a recent weekly case count spike of over 53, according to a graphic in the video. The upsurge has put the district in “near crisis mode” to find substitute teachers, kitchen staff and janitors, Woolstenhulme said.

Districts and charters across Idaho have adjusted their school safety policies amid spikes in confirmed cases in the opening weeks of the school year. As of Friday, at least 22 Idaho districts and charters, including the Boise School District, made masks mandatory. Bonneville serves some 13,000 students.

Meanwhile, the Filer School District decided to close schools districtwide Sept. 24 through Oct. 4, citing “excessive” staff absences and substitute teacher shortages. School officials say the shortages are only partially due to COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.

Administrators in the state’s largest school district, West Ada, announced last week that a recently implemented mask mandate for students, staff and visitors will remain in place through at least Oct. 8. To support its decision, the district pointed to substitute teacher shortages, strain placed on school nurses charged with contact tracing, and hospitals being forced to ration care as cases surge.

Idaho EdNews is following the decisions of trustees and updating a county map daily with school closures and mask mandates. Below the map is a platform for you to tell us what’s happening in your school. We’ll share your experiences with our readers. We’d like to hear from teachers, students and parents.

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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