Boise trustees rescind their mask mandate

Boise School District trustees agreed Monday afternoon to rescind the district’s mask mandate, effective Tuesday.

Trustees discussed the issue for 35 minutes and voted unanimously to make masks optional, after operating under a mandate for the entire 2021-22 school year.

“We are at a safe place to do this right now,” said trustee Beth Oppenheimer.

Trustees for the state’s second-largest district agreed three weeks ago to drop its mask mandate, but not until March 28, after spring break. But their decision was pushed forward to Monday’s special meeting because new coronavirus case numbers have continued to trend downward in Boise and area schools. Boise schools reported only 16 positive cases last week, down from 55 the week before.

Monday’s decision followed news from the Centers for Disease Control, which relaxed mask guidelines, and Boise Mayor Lauren McLean, who lifted mask requirements for city facilities.

Boise is one of the last districts in Idaho to rescind its mandate, following Blaine County and McCall-Donnelly’s decisions last week. Idaho’s largest school district, West Ada, phased out its mask mandate in November, and Nampa lifted its mandate in May.

Boise State University and the University of Idaho eased their mask mandates last week.

Trustees said they received extensive feedback from parents, and trustee Steve Schmidt said, based on the feedback, he was “conflicted” by his choice but voted in favor of removing the mandate.

Other safety measures will stay in place until March 28 so school administrators have time to make adjustments to accommodate visitors and volunteers.

Deputy superintendent Lisa Roberts assured trustees that educators will accommodate students who are not comfortable coming to school in person under the new policy. Students can work remotely for the rest of this quarter then enroll in Boise’s online school.

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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