Bonneville makes masks mandatory

East Idaho’s largest school district will require its students and staff to wear masks this school year.

The Bonneville School Board last week approved a mask mandate after local health officials “strongly encouraged” leaders to include it in the district’s reopening plan, Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme announced on Facebook.

“What we’ve known from the start is that on our school buses and in our classrooms, we’ll do our best, but we can’t get six feet of separation between students,” Woolstenhulme said.

Teachers can allow students to remove their masks when that level of separation happens, Woolstehnhulme added, but “for the most part, (students) should wear (masks) from the time they get on the school bus … to the time they go home.”

The mandate accompanies trustees’ decision to reshape Bonneville’s original reopening plan. The district had planned to reduce face-to-face learning to two days per week, under what local health officials deem a “moderate risk” for local contraction of coronavirus. Following feedback from patrons, schools will now reopen at that risk level with a heavier emphasis on in-person learning:

  • Students in grades K-6 will attend in-person classes Monday through Friday, with the second and fourth Mondays of the month set aside for online instruction.
  • Students in grades 7-12 will learn online every Monday and attend in-person classes Tuesday through Friday.

An increase to a “high” level of local risk for contraction of coronavirus would reintroduce a hybrid learning model for students, whose last names would determine when they attend classes:

  • A-K would go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
  • L-Z will go on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Bonneville typically enrolls more than 13,000 students. Its first day of school is currently set for August 31.

Further reading: An EdNews-sponsored survey of 600 Idahoans found that 76 percent of respondents believe their children learn best in an in-person environment. Just 21 percent reported supporting mask mandates in schools. 

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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