27J changes mask policy after contentious board meeting

Parents argue to loosen mask restrictions after county’s decision to opt out of Tri-County Health Department mask mandate

Liam Adams
ladams@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/30/21

The 27J Schools board of education was one of the first school boards in Adams County’s districts to meet after county commissioners voted to opt out the Tri-County Health Department’s mask order …

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27J changes mask policy after contentious board meeting

Parents argue to loosen mask restrictions after county’s decision to opt out of Tri-County Health Department mask mandate

Posted

27J Schools changed its mask policy again following the Adams County Board of Commissioners vote to opt-out of a Tri-County Health Department’s mask mandate and a contentious board meeting that same night and again this week after the health agency issued a new mandate. 

The Brighton-based district will require masks for fully vaccinated students, after Tri-County Health's Aug. 30 mandate. Its announcement marks the third change to its mask policy since the start of the school year. 

The district initially didn’t require all students to wear masks but changed its policy after Tri-County Health issued its mandate Aug. 17. On the morning of Aug. 24, the Adams County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to opt out of Tri-County’s order that requires masks for students ages 2 to 11, leaving decisions about masks up to individual school districts.

The 27J Schools board meeting was that night. It was one of the first school boards in Adams County to meet since the opt-out decision. The public took advantage of the timing.

“I believe that allowing parents the choice to choose for their child whether or not to put a mask on them is the best choice. It is the full decision. We don’t follow what other people tell us, right?” said Jenn Venerable, a former 27J Schools board director, during public comments at the board meeting Aug. 24. “And this district has always been a trailblazer. And the fact that we are not mandated now by Tri-County is a serious blessing because now there is no legal repercussions.”

Venerable was one of many public commenters who asked district officials to loosen its current restrictions that requires middle and elementary school students to wear masks, especially because the district was no longer subject to the directive from Tri-County Health.

 “Remember the world tilted on us this morning,” 27J Superintendent Chris Fiedler said in the meeting. The board had not scheduled any action items about masks for the meeting, so it did not make any decisions about the district’s policy that evening.  

The 27J board limited public comments to 45 minutes, a time filled mostly by mask opponents.

“Our family is not afraid of the Delta variant. We have the Alpha and the Omega,” said one public commenter.

Many of the speakers who were critical of the district’s former mask requirement framed their argument as being “pro-choice." A public commenter who is a fourth-grade history teacher in the district said, “I think a lot of us here tonight are to the point of a breaking point where we are sick and tired of people mandating whether we make a choice for our bodies or not, mandating to wear a mask or take a vaccine. It’s a person’s choice.”

Not all commenters opposed the district’s former policy, and some applauded the board and administrators for following public health expert guidance. A couple also thanked the district for offering medical exemptions for students to not wear masks. Fiedler also encouraged parents to seek out that option if they felt the need to.

Fiedler said at the board meeting that the main concern of his is staffing. If too many teachers are out because they contracted COVID-19 due to relaxed mask-wearing, the entire system experiences the strain. “That’s the tension,” he said.

Mapleton Public Schools, Adams 12 Five Star Schools and Westminster Public Schools have not changed current mask requirements after Adams County’s opt-out decision.

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