Supporters for Open and Safe Schools (SOS), a group of Mesa County residents who are alarmed by the lax Covid-19 prevention protocols School District 51 put in place for this fall, is challenging the District’s “2021-22 Keeping Schools Open Plan” as insufficient to keep students and the surrounding community safe from COVID outbreaks and school closures amid a continuing pandemic.
District 51 announced its “Keeping Schools Open” plan on July 16, but the plan does not require students or staff to wear face coverings. Instead it makes masking optional, lets unvaccinated visitors onto schools grounds without wearing face coverings and only encourages, and does not require, staff and students over 12 years to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Currently children under 12 are not eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine, making them more susceptible to infection, especially with more transmissible Delta variant that spread rapidly in Mesa County after the County Commissioners ended all Covid protections in the county last spring. Currently only 43 percent of Mesa County adults over 12 years of age are fully vaccinated, far lower than the statewide average of 54 percent.
Mesa County has already had one pediatric COVID death.
Petition pressures school district to update COVID protocols
SOS started a Change.org petition asking District 51 to “align with and abide by national and state agency guidelines for health and safety protocols in regard to COVID-19 for the 2021-22 school year.” Those protocols include:
Mandatory face masks for students, staff, and visitors entering any School District 51 school building until vaccines become accessible to school-aged children (ages 5-11)
Daily disinfection of facilities
Adequate ventilation systems for each School District 51 school building
Frequent hand washing
The petition cites the COVID guidance currently recommended for schools by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Colorado Department of Education. The petitions was drafted with the help of a pathologist at St. Mary’s Hospital.
The Mesa County Medical Society on July 28th also urged the school board to rethink its protocols. School District 51 Board member representing District E, Amy Davis, is a physician.
CDC’s Guidance for Covid-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools published on July 9 says “masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated. Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics says “All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).”
See and sign the petition at this link.