West Ada to phase out mask mandate

The West Ada School District’s mask mandate will phase out by the end of the month.

Trustees in the state’s largest district on Monday voted unanimously in favor of lifting the requirement effective Nov. 29 because COVID-19 vaccines are now available for 5- to 11-year-olds. Masks remain optional for students and staff in the district.

Trustees voted to stall the repeal until after Thanksgiving break to give parents time to let their young kids receive the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine, which federal officials OK’d almost two weeks ago.

“Now every parent in our district has the exact same choices for how to manage the safety of (COVID-19) for their own family,” said board chair Amy Johnson.

Because the Pfizer vaccine requires two shots three weeks apart, not enough time has lapsed for young children to be fully vaccinated. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their final shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Monday’s meeting, which drew few public attendees, was the latest in a saga of discussions over masks in West Ada that drew an organized demonstration. Earlier this school year, the district allowed parents to exempt their children from wearing a mask. After a West Ada teacher died from COVID-19, Superintendent Derek Bub announced a stricter mask requirement on Sept. 8, which has been in place since.

Parents and patrons of West Ada School District pack a past board meeting to support a policy to keep masks optional.

Monday’s decision follows the Caldwell School District’s decision last week to end its mask mandate.

Only 14 Idaho public school districts and charter schools are still requiring masks, according to Idaho Education News’s tally. That includes school districts in Boise, Blaine and McCall-Donnelly and 11 charter schools.

Monday’s vote also clarified that the board would continue its current method of notifying parents that their child was in a classroom with a COVID-19 case, rather than doing contact tracing.

The availability of a vaccine for kids as young as 5 years old was one of three conditions under which West Ada would revisit its mask requirement. The other two included:

  • Crisis Standards of Care, which allows hospitals to ration scarce health care resources and focuses on saving the most lives possible, being withdrawn from two large local hospitals, St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus.
  • Ada County reaching a “moderate” level of transmission.

Idaho is still operating under Crisis Standards of Care, though coronavirus case rates have fallen to their lowest level since July. Ada County remains under high COVID-19 transmission, according to the CDC.

Idaho EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. 

Kyle Pfannenstiel

Kyle Pfannenstiel

Reporter Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the implementation of policy in Idaho’s K-12 public school system. He’s a military brat and former health care reporter who holds degrees in Journalism and Political Science from University of Idaho. Follow Kyle on Twitter @pfannyyy. He can be reached at [email protected].

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday