ARVADA, Colo. (CBS4) – Some parents in Jefferson County weren’t waiting for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to come out with new guidelines. They started working weeks ago to try and change the school district’s policy around masks when school starts next month.
“It’s not an issue of personal choice, it’s an issue of public health and safety,” said Kathryn Eterno, a parent and former Jeffco Public Schools educator. “It very quickly started to feel like the school board was not going to be making science-based decisions, that they were going to making pressure-based decisions or politically-based decisions.”
Eterno and other concerned parents started a group on Facebook and then an online petition urging the district to change its mask policy. In June, JPS said kids under the age of 11 wouldn’t be required to wear masks, and vaccinated kids over the age of 12 could forgo masks. On Tuesday, the district said it was reviewing the new CDC guidelines and beginning to work with the community, staff, and Jeffco Public Health to find a path forward.
A decision is expected later in the week.
“When people talk about COVID not being dangerous for kids, they talk about mortality rates and that’s true. But we do see lots of kids that are having long sustained, pretty serious health impacts,” Eterno said.READ MORE: Colorado Encourages COVID Vaccine As CDC Changes Mask Guidance
The state’s largest union for teachers said it’s urging districts to look at the new guidelines and decide soon so parents and staff can prepare.
“We highly encourage our school districts as they are making these decisions, since our state has said that those decisions will be made at the local level, that they lead to things like the CDC guidance and utilize that to guide their decision making,” said Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehlert
The priority for many is to make sure kids are learning in the classroom and not forced into remote learning.
“If we need to do things like wear masks to ensure that we can have that consistent in-person learning, then I you know, we think that that should be done,” Baca-OeHlert said.
Parents like Eterno are concerned they may be forced into home schooling if a change isn’t made.
“We know the consequences of learning remotely, not just for mental health, but also for learning are pretty severe,” she said. “If a large portion of kids show up to school with no masks, they’re going to spread COVID and that’s going to hurt my child, and it’s going to potentially kill my mother.”