One-third of West Ada students have decided not to wear masks in school

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to report masks are “recommended” for West Ada School District teachers and staff members, not required. 

One-third of students in Idaho’s largest school district have opted out of wearing a face covering while indoors. These family decisions come as COVID-19 numbers among younger people and children continue to rise in Idaho.

West Ada trustees decided last week that masks are optional for students as long as parents or guardians complete a mask opt-out form. More than 13,000 of West Ada School District’s 40,000 students turned in opt-out forms in seven days.

A line of parents looking to opt their child out of wearing a mask in school stretched around the West Ada district office building. Nik Streng/Idaho Education News

Board Chair Amy Johnson said the mask opt-out forms give the district an idea of what parents want. She was not surprised by the turnout.

“It’s about where I thought it would be,” Johnson said, adding that she’s heard from parents who like having the option but are still sending their children to school masked if spread is high.

West Ada teachers and staff are also not required to wear masks. They are not required to complete an opt-out form.

At least 15 of 179 districts and charters in Idaho are requiring students to wear masks in school. Just this week, McCall-Donnelly and Caldwell implemented mask mandates. Most school leaders recommend masks but have decided they are optional.

West Ada spokesperson Char Jackson said on Tuesday the district is keeping an eye on the mask opt-out numbers, but said the most important data they have is regarding contact tracing. Jackson said the district is keeping an eye on weekly COVID-19 case counts for Ada County, the case rate at the district level, the number of cases in schools and quarantines among students and staff.

The number of signed opt-out forms ranges drastically from school to school in West Ada:

  • Andrus Elementary: 29%
  • Barbara Morgan STEM Academy: 25%
  • Centennial High: 19%
  • Central Academy: 14%
  • Chaparral Elementary: 27%
  • Chief Joseph Elementary: 30%
  • Christine Donnell School of the Arts: 34%
  • Crossroads Middle: 26%
  • Desert Sage Elementary: 16%
  • Discovery Elementary: 31%
  • Eagle Academy: 18%
  • Eagle Elementary: 47%
  • Eagle High: 45%
  • Eagle Hills Elementary: 41%
  • Eagle Middle: 44%
  • Frontier Elementary: 15%
  • Galileo STEM Academy: 48%
  • Heritage Middle: 42%
  • Hillsdale: Elementary: 41%
  • Hunter Elementary: 50%
  • Idaho Fine Arts Academy: 36%
  • Joplin Elementary: 28%
  • Lake Hazel Elementary: 30%
  • Lake Hazel Middle: 25%
  • Lewis & Clark Middle: 24%
  • Lowell Scott Middle: 20%
  • Mary McPherson Elementary: 17%
  • McMillan Elementary: 15%
  • Meridian Academy: 13%
  • Meridian Elementary 17%
  • Meridian High: 25%
  • Meridian Middle: 29%
  • Mountain View High: 29%
  • Owyhee High: 43%
  • Paramount Elementary: 58%
  • Pathways Middle: 33%
  • Pepper Ridge Elementary: 26%
  • Peregrine Elementary: 23%
  • Pioneer Elementary: 28%
  • Pleasant View Elementary: 49%
  • Ponderosa Elementary: 35%
  • Prospect Elementary: 38%
  • Rebound High: 13%
  • Renaissance High: 18%
  • River Valley Elementary: 24%
  • Rocky Mountain High: 39%
  • Sawtooth Middle: 48%
  • Seven Oaks Elementary: 36%
  • Siena Elementary: 32%
  • Silver Sage Elementary: 18%
  • Spalding Elementary: 24%
  • Star Elementary 49%
  • Star Middle: 47%
  • Summerwind Elementary: 18%
  • Ustick Elementary: 13%
  • Victory Middle: 35%
  • Virtual School House (online only): 2%
  • Willow Creek Elementary: 42%

Paramount Elementary, which serves 440 students, leads the list with 58% of students opting out of the mask requirement. Hunter Elementary had 50% of students opt out.

Ustick Elementary, Meridian Academy and Rebound High each had 13% of students turn in a form.

Students sit in their first class at Owyhee High School on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021, the first day of classes in the district’s newest school. Nik Streng/Idaho Education News

The district’s alternative schools have a much lower opt-out rate (19.5%) than the rest of the district. Elementary schools (30.9%) have a lower opt out rate than middle schools (34.9%) and high schools (31.1%).

Elementary-aged students are not able to be vaccinated.

West Ada has more opt-out forms from the district’s north region, which includes Eagle, Star and the new Owyhee High, with 41% opting out. The west region had 31.5% of students opt out, followed by the south (27.6%) and east (22.9%).

Two more districts add mask mandates

Caldwell: Caldwell trustees voted to require masks for all students and staff through the end of the first quarter (Oct. 14). The vote took place during a Monday night special meeting. The motion was made by Travis Manning and passed 4-1. Trustee Andrew Butler asked that the mandate be shortened to Sept. 20 (two weeks after Labor Day) but Manning said he would not amend his original motion.

McCall-Donnelly: Trustees in McCall voted to require masks for all district students and staff during a meeting on Friday night. An update from the district, posted on Saturday morning, states that the mask policy will be reviewed during the Sept. 13 regular meeting.


Nik Streng

Nik Streng


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