Mask mandate will remain in force for Southern Utah public schools

Stock photo. | Photo by Drazen Zigic, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With the statewide mask mandate set to lift Saturday, local school districts are reminding students and staff that the requirement for face coverings will remain in effect until June 15. 

In this March 2021 file photo, students wearing masks gather for an assembly at Three Falls Elementary School, Hurricane, Utah | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Gov. Spencer Cox recently reemphasized the ongoing precautions at a press conference, but said that he doesn’t want mandates to last longer than necessary. For their part, local education officials have indicated that masks will remain part of school policy per the governor’s order.

“I think it’s to be noted that whatever our personal feelings concerning these things, we are bound as public officials to uphold that executive order,” said Kelly Blake, president of the Washington County Board of Education. “We feel it’s in the best interest of children to finish the school year as we started, which is in person. It doesn’t mean we like it, it just means we’re complying.”

Washington County School District released a memo in mid-March reminding employees that masks will continue to be required on school property and on school busses. In the release, Superintendent Larry Bergeson said, “We are so close. Please continue your noteworthy efforts to honor the order and support the governor. It is making a difference.”

On August 14, 2020, the Utah Department of Health issued a public health order requiring the use of masks in all Utah K-12 schools. In addition to physical distancing, Covid-19 testing, quarantine and other health precautions, masks were deemed essential in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“They were critical – we wouldn’t have been able to stay open without those precautions,” said Steven Dunham, district communications director. “Truly, we believe that they have been the key to keeping children in school, and that’s really our end goal.”

Students on the Dixie High Student Council thank members of the board of education for their work keeping schools open, St. George, Utah, April 6, 2021 | Photo by Ammon Teare, St. George News

Whether the mask mandate for schools is lifted after June 15 remains in the hands of the state education officials, Dunham said.

“Everybody’s tired of masks at this point, but I think everybody can deal with it at this point as well,” Dunham said. “I’m very impressed with how well the students have been this year. They have done a tremendous job of wearing their masks and supporting their teachers. The kids should get credit for that.”

Kane County School District Superintendent Ben Dalton shared a statement regarding health precautions in district schools. The statement emphasized that Kane County schools have remained open each school day thanks to health protocols advised by the Southwest Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Utah State Board of Education.

“We are optimistic about beginning school in the fall and will put plans in place to keep our schools healthy, safe and secure,” Dalton said.

Kane County School District currently has six active COVID-19 cases and 10 individuals in quarantine as of April 6.

As of March 31, there were five students and two teachers who recently tested positive for COVID-19 in the Washington County School District. There were 36 individuals in quarantine due to possible exposure.

In Iron County, there were 13 active Covid-19 cases among students, teachers and staff and 57 individuals currently in quarantine as of April 2.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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