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NCSD announces special meeting to discuss district mask requirement
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NCSD announces special meeting to discuss district mask requirement

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Jessica Christian gives her son Tobias a kiss through their face masks as he is dropped off for his first day of kindergarten on Sept. 2 at Park Elementary School in Casper.

The Natrona County School District will host a special Board of Trustees meeting Monday and could consider requesting an exception to the state’s K-12 mask requirement, it announced Friday.

State Health Officer Alexia Harrist will also need to approve the district’s request.

Trustees previously discussed the action at an April 12 meeting after several parents testified masks were causing unintentional harm to children’s mental health.

Nearly all members were in favor of lifting the requirement, but several suggested gauging public attitudes and determining whether local health officials would support the step first. Trustees also discussed surveying staff and parents before making a decision. The results of that survey will be shared at Monday’s meeting, according to the agenda.

Earlier this week, at a meeting of the county health board, County Health Officer Dr. Mark Dowell was asked if he would support such a request from the district.

He did not give an affirmative answer in either direction, but said, “I would prefer we don’t mess with what ain’t broke.”

As of Monday, 10 districts in Wyoming had been approved to lift mask requirements. At least one district that submitted a request did not have it approved at that time.

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Governors are lifting mask mandates at a time health officials are warning about becoming complacent as new COVID variants are being detected in the U.S. Source by: Stringr

No district that received an exception serves more than 2,000 students. Natrona County is the second-largest district in the state, with nearly 13,000 students.

The requirement that masks be worn at educational institutions is one of just two state public health orders remaining in Wyoming. The other imposes limits on indoor gatherings of more than 500 people. Harrist extended the orders through April 30, citing the state’s “plateaued” progress.

Trustee David Applegate said at the April 12 meeting he supported eliminating the mask requirement as long as health officials did as well.

“I think the fact it has to be approved by various health officials ... if they don’t agree with it ... then I’m going to support us continuing to wear masks,” he said.

COVID-19 cases have remained relatively low in school settings in large part because of compliance with face mask orders, according to local and state epidemiologists. Natrona County as a whole is in the second-lowest transmission risk-category set by White House officials, but cases nationwide are ticking up again.

Trustees will hear recommendations from local health officials Monday.

The meeting will be held 7 p.m. at 970 N. Glenn Road. The public can submit comments to Trustees via email at no later than 1 p.m. Monday.

Follow health and education reporter Morgan Hughes on Twitter @m0rgan_hughes


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Health and education reporter

Morgan Hughes covers health and education in Wyoming. After growing up in rural Wisconsin, she graduated from Marquette University in 2018. She moved to Wyoming shortly after and covered education in Cheyenne before joining the Star-Tribune in May 2019.

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