EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

SLC students appear to keep masks on, despite mandate being rescinded

Jan 24, 2022, 7:11 PM | Updated: Aug 30, 2022, 3:38 pm
school masks...
(File photo: The football stadium at West High School, one of the schools where masks were distributed. Credit: Paul Nelson)
(File photo: The football stadium at West High School, one of the schools where masks were distributed. Credit: Paul Nelson)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s the first day back to school… of sorts… for students in the Salt Lake City School District. Monday was the first day since the start of the pandemic where children didn’t have to follow a mask mandate.  So, did the students decide to ditch the masks, or to keep their faces covered?

Mask mandate still in place?

If you were to wander the halls of West High School, you may have thought the mandate was still in place.  Senior Diego Duran says the overwhelming majority of his classmates decided to keep their masks on simply because school officials asked them to.

“The principal, in the morning, he basically thanked everyone for wearing a mask, so I guess that encouraged people to wear masks,” Duran said.  “I haven’t seen anyone without a mask.”

The Utah Legislature overturned mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties last Friday, eliminating the mandate the SLCSD had in place since the beginning of the pandemic.  KSL TV reports teachers and parents were angry about the mandate being rescinded, but Duran says it didn’t seem to sway the students, at all.

He said, “No one was telling us not to, and no one was telling us to wear masks.  I guess they’re just doing whatever they feel is right.”

Cooperative students

District Spokesperson Yándary Chatwin says the students have been cooperative with mandates, in general, with most kids masking up when they were asked to. 

“We can’t control what people are doing out in the community, whether they wear masks or social distance,” Chatwin said.  “When we had that mask mandate in place, it was one tool to help us keep the spread at bay, in the schools.”

Chatwin says not only are they frustrated with the legislature for overturning the city’s mandate, but they’re also upset with the House passing HB 183, which allows lawmakers to decide when students are required to switch to online learning because of high COVID case numbers.  Chatwin says SLCSD never had to enact their “test to stay” protocols, however, they came close to doing so when cases numbers started rising.  In one of their larger high schools, 58 faculty members called in sick just before they switched to online learning.

“It’s really hard to educate kids when [faculty] is sick and can’t come to school, or they have to quarantine,” Chatwin said.

The Utah State Board of Education didn’t take an official stand on HB 183, but some board members say lawmakers are usurping local control away from school districts.

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