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School Board Votes No On Mask Mandate For Montezuma-Cortez School District

Ellis Berry
After over an hour of comments from parents and one high school senior, the Montezuma-Cortez School Board voted against a mask mandate for the district at an emergency meeting on Tuesday.

The Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 School Board held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to consider a mask mandate for the district’s schools.

After over an hour of emotional testimony from parents and one high school senior, the board voted five to two against a mask mandate. 

To clarify, masks will remain optional in district schools.

The vote was met by applause from a largely mask-less crowd.

But it goes against the recommendations of federal, state, and county health departments as well as those of the district’s own superintendent and health officials.

The district’s director of health services, Jacqueline Hall, says she’s already had to quarantine over two hundred students since school started due to possible exposure.

COVID-19 infections were found in at least six of the district’s schools last week, including Montezuma-Cortez High School and Kemper Elementary School.

In advance if the meeting yesterday, the high school’s principal Eric Chandler said a mask mandate would be the best way to keep students in the classroom.

"If everybody is wearing a mask, then besides the person who was infected, nobody would have to go into quarantine," he said. "So if our intent is to try to keep students in school, which is what it is, then [a mask mandate] does make the most sense."

In regard to the student COVID infection, Chandler says the school is following guidelines from both the Centers for Disease Control and the Montezuma County Health Department.

Any unmasked student or staff member who was within six feet of the infected student for more than fifteen minutes was required to quarantine.

Meanwhile, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is pleading with parents upset with mask policies at their schools not to resort to threats or violence over the issue. 

"It’s OK to be disappointed, it’s okay to express your viewpoint," he said. "But it’s also critical that we maintain civility and respect with those we disagree with, regardless of your opinions and the decision of your district."

Tensions over mask policies have led to heightened police presence at some Colorado schools. 

Many districts in the state are requiring masks this year based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, but Polis is not initiating any statewide mandate.

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Lucas is the News Director for KSJD Community Radio. His work focuses on serving the public of the Four Corners with responsible, factual reporting.
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