Masks will be required for start of school in Steamboat Springs |

Masks will be required for start of school in Steamboat Springs

In a special meeting Thursday, the Steamboat Springs School Board voted unanimously to require masks for all students and staff in the district.

Students in Steamboat Springs will be required to wear masks when they return to school next week after the School Board approved the move unanimously in a special meeting on Thursday.

The district had not made any official decision on whether students would be required to wear masks prior to Thursday, but the board indicated it favored an optional masking policy at a meeting last week.

But the landscape of COVID-19 has changed with new local cases rising to 66 in the last week and the positivity rate of 6.8%, which is as high as back in February. Rising cases of the virus across Colorado have a number of districts opting to require masks with some reversing a previous policy.

The board has also been flooded with outreach from parents in the district since last week’s meeting. Board member Katy Lee said they have received more correspondence on masks in schools than any other issue she had dealt with since she was elected, with many on both sides.

“We’re really hearing a lot from both sides, and it is clear from many emails, phone calls, public comments and conversations that we are a community divided,” Lee said.

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The board reviewed the same four options that were presented last week ranging from all students wearing masks to masks being optional. Each board member said they supported requiring masks for all students.

“I recognize masks are not ideal, but so is not being in school,” said board member Lara Craig. “I believe that this is the best option to keep our schools open to full in-person learning.”

Superintendent Brad Meeks said the use of masks would help limit quarantines in the school, which he said were the most disruptive aspect last year for students, their families and employers.

The board made clear the decision was subject to change amid the evolving situation and they would revisit the situation routinely throughout the school year.

The board did not take public comment, with Lee saying that after the correspondence they received in the last week and the robust public comment during the last meeting, board members understood the arguments on both sides.

“We feel we have a solid understanding of the arguments put forward both in support and against a mask mandate and that public comment at this meeting would likely not give up any additional information,” Lee said.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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