September 15, 2021 Message from the Weld RE-4 School District

As our mask requirement goes into effect, we would like to take this opportunity to address questions we have received about why masks are necessary for students inside of our schools and on our buses. While the district has received federal funding from the Elementary And Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) to address the impact of COVID on our district, we want to clarify that this funding is not contingent on, or compensation for, implementing a mask requirement. Regarding the question of how long the mask requirement will last, the district is prepared to be flexible and adapt to align with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) guidelines as they are updated during the school year. 

Masks are recommended for K-12 schools by national, state, and local public health officials as a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19. While not mandated in Colorado (except on buses where a federal mandate is in place), CDPHE uses county vaccination rates as well as rates of transmission to assess risk. In Weld County, vaccination rates are lower and transmission of the virus higher than in other Colorado counties. In August, the school board approved a temporary alternative to a districtwide mask mandate that presented a percentage threshold for requiring masks in a school. Weld County Public Health would not endorse this plan, but they have recommended that we follow CDPHE guidelines, which the Board had done. 

We are risking a negative impact on learning. Our primary goal is in-person learning, which we know is essential for student academic growth and mental health. Already this year, an outbreak disrupted learning for a classroom of elementary students that had to transition to remote learning, and we have had other classrooms/groups of students with numbers close to the outbreak mark. Additionally, staffing shortages related to the virus became such an issue that, without additional measures, we faced more classrooms and possibly entire schools moving to remote learning. There were as many as four schools where this was a likely reality.

Masks are an important tool in keeping kids in school. Multiple studies report that masks are one measure, along with others, that can help keep transmission of COVID-19 in-check. Masks combined with proper hygiene practices, enhanced cleaning procedures, and improved filtration systems should help us minimize outbreaks and quarantines that disrupt learning. For more information please see CDPHE, CDC, Children's Hospital Colorado, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Our district has what constitutes a known risk. Only five weeks into the school year, we have nearly as many cases of COVID in our schools than we did in the entire 2020-2021 year when all students were in masks while in school. Multiple students and staff in the same setting or classroom have tested positive for COVID within the incubation period, which was something we didn’t see last year. 

Attending school is not a choice unlike choosing to visit a restaurant, concert venue, or other business in our community. Under Colorado’s compulsory education law, children must attend school. As a district, we have a responsibility for the health and safety of all students in our schools.