POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Senate bill would allow school districts to opt out of enforcing mask mandates

Feb 12, 2021, 6:05 AM | Updated: Feb 13, 2021, 11:57 am
concealed carry...
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)
(Utah State Capitol. Credit: Paul Nelson, file)

SALT LAKE CITY – Should school districts be allowed to decide to opt out of enforcing a statewide mask mandate on school grounds?  A bill being proposed in the Senate would allow that to happen.  

Senate Bill 187 sponsor, Sen. Ron Winterton, said educators were told back in June to start preparing their plans to let kids come back to school.  Several of the school districts in the eastern part of the state purchased face masks and plexiglass, but were later informed they would use the same public health practices other districts were using.

Winterton said, “One size fits all’ does not work statewide.  I have school districts on the eastern side of the state that didn’t have high counts of COVID anywhere.”

He sid some educators were worried they’d lose out on funding if they didn’t comply with mask mandates.

“They shouldn’t operate out of fear, looking over their shoulders,” he said.

Winterton said school board members were elected to direct the affairs of the school district, not local health departments.  He believes his bill would put the power back in the hands of the educators.  However, some health care officials say most school districts already consult health departments before they make any public safety decisions.

“They rely on us as a local health department to provide them with the expertise and the guidance that they need to ensure their students are in a healthy and safe environment,” said Salt Lake County Health Department Spokesman Nicholas Rupp.  “They don’t have a mechanism to get public health recommendations and public health guidance, except through us.”

Rupp said the SLCHD is still studying SB187, so they haven’t taken an official position on it, yet.

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