West Ada superintendent decides to mandate masks

West Ada Superintendent Derek Bub stands outside of the school district office on Thursday, July 1, 2021. Nik Streng/Idaho Education News

The West Ada School District announced Wednesday night it will begin mandating that students, staff and visitors wear masks in classrooms starting Friday, Sept. 10.

Superintendent Derek Bub announced his decision the same day beloved West Ada high school teacher and coach Mike McCrady died due to complications from COVID-19.

“We talk about whether or not COVID impacts kids, but we’re talking about whether or not they get sick. But today, West Ada lost a teacher, and there are a ton of kids impacted by that teacher’s loss from COVID. So to say that (students) showing up in the hospital is the only impact of COVID on our kids is not accurate,” West Ada School Board Chair Amy Johnson said.

Bub announced his decision at the board’s Wednesday meeting. Trustees gave him authority to change district protocols earlier this summer.

The call was made “to protect staff, students and community from spread of (the) highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus,” as the variant “wreak(s) havoc on our state, local community, and is substantially disrupting our daily operations,” Bub said in an address to the board.

His decision drew supportive statements from board members. Though one attendee yelled out, “We’re never gonna beat it. You guys are destroying our kids.”

The district administration will review its policy again Sept. 22, and potentially restore students’ and teachers’ option to opt out of masking by Sept. 24, depending on current coronavirus case numbers.

The district opened the year by allowing students and teachers to opt-out of wearing masks. Students needed their parents to fill out an opt-out form to avoid wearing masks, though it was announced last week teachers wouldn’t need to fill out a form to do so.

About 36% of West Ada’s 40,000 students had opted out of masking, as of Wednesday, EdNews reported.

Coronavirus case numbers are surging statewide as the more contagious Delta variant has fueled a potentially historic spike in cases among school-age children, EdNews reported. The rapid case rise has pushed ICUs to the brink, forcing North Idaho hospitals to ration care for the first time in state history and causing health officials to warn that other regions of the state may soon meet the same fate.

West Ada currently has 155 active COVID-19 cases, including 139 students and 16 staff members, per the district’s coronavirus dashboard. Bub said that more than 500 students are in isolation, and another 500-plus are in a program that allows some students to stay in class rather than quarantining if they wear a mask.

Masks still optional in Nampa

Masks will remain optional in the Nampa School District after trustees voted 2-2 on the matter Wednesday night during a special meeting.

Trustee Mike Kipp motioned to make masks mandatory for students and staff while indoors. The change would also have required the district to implement contact tracing and quarantine protocols, which are currently not in Nampa’s back-to-school plan.

The 2-2 vote came as trustee Allison Westfall was absent from Wednesday’s meeting. Kipp and Chair Mandy Simpson voted for the motion with trustees Kim Rost and Betsy Keller voting against it.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the district will reevaluate its decision Sept. 22, not Sept. 24. 

About Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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