Cherry Creek district expands mask requirement for students through 8th grade

District extends mask rule past 6th grade based on understanding of Tri-County order

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Cherry Creek School District has extended its mask requirement to slightly older students after clarifying its understanding of the local public health agency’s order requiring masks in schools, the district announced Aug. 27.

“Through working with our middle school principals, we have learned that the interaction of students at all levels in middle school, while minimal, is enough that masking all students and staff is the best strategy,” Christopher Smith, district superintendent, wrote in a letter to the community. The school district’s mask requirement now includes seventh- and eighth-graders.

The board of health for the Tri-County Health Department — which serves Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties — voted to approve a mask order during an Aug. 17 meeting.

The public health order requires that all children ages 2 through 11, as well as all individuals working with or interacting with them, must wear a mask while in any indoor school setting.

Based on “continued conversations with Tri-County Health Department and further clarification” of its order, the school district now requires masks for all pre-K, elementary and middle school students and all staff in those buildings, Smith’s letter said. The change was to take effect Aug. 30.

After initially saying on Aug. 4. that it would “strongly encourage” — but not require — masks in school, the Cherry Creek School District announced on Aug. 13 that it would require masks for all students in pre-K through sixth grade and the staff who work with them. Tri-County Health’s mask order took effect Aug. 23.

Cherry Creek also based its Aug. 27 decision to expand the school district’s mask requirement on the district’s COVID-19 data from the prior 10 days, which the district posts on its website at tinyurl.com/CherryCreekCOVIDdata.

“We have seen increasing COVID-19 cases among students and staff, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels,” Smith wrote. “While we have not seen significant spread in schools, the fact that COVID-19 cases are increasing in the community means we need to take stronger measures to protect schools where there are large numbers of students not yet eligible to receive the vaccine.”

With the expanded mask requirement, the school district “will have greater success at keeping schools open for in-person learning throughout the fall,” Smith wrote.

Tri-County Health officials have said masks limit the potential for a need to switch from in-person to remote classes. John Douglas, the executive director of Tri-County Health, has said he hopes a mask order would cut down on coronavirus infections that result in students needing to miss school.

Along with Cherry Creek implementing mask requirements through eighth grade, the district reiterated that masks are “strongly encouraged” for students and staff in high schools, Smith wrote.

“Students and staff in all grades should stay home if they are feeling sick or experiencing any symptoms associated with COVID-19,” Smith added. “These are important prevention strategies to ensure that high schools remain in-person and that students can participate in activities and athletics.”

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