Littleton Public Schools launched the new school year without a face mask requirement, though that didn't sit well with some parents who spoke at a school board meeting Aug. 12. The district's …
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Littleton Public Schools launched the new school year without a face mask requirement, though that didn't sit well with some parents who spoke at a school board meeting Aug. 12.
The district's current health and safety protocols are not enough now that the new delta variant is the dominant COVID-19 strain in Colorado, several community members who spoke at the meeting said.
“Given how delta has changed the game, I think having a low school infection rate over the last year is like saying we didn't get any wildfires while it was raining,” one man who gave public comment by phone said.
With classrooms at full capacity, he said the two best lines of defense are masks and vaccines. Vaccines are not available for children under 12 years of age, but a mask mandate for elementary children would ensure in-person learning for as many days as possible, he said.
“I wonder what the acceptable number of infections is for those who can't choose vaccines yet,” he said, taking a jab at the district's oft-stated goal of having 100% of LPS students ready for post-secondary education by graduation.
Earlier in the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Melissa Cooper gave an overview of the district's strategies to mitigate COVID-19. Three speakers from the public remarked that Cooper's report made no mention of the delta variant or of the effectiveness of past safety measures, such as hand washing and improved ventilation, on new strains of the virus.
One speaker noted that the coronavirus now affects children more than it did previously and that the data the district used in decision-making reflects summer conditions, when people are more likely to be out of doors. She said a universal mask mandate for elementary children would be in line with the LPS mission to “act with purpose and compassion in a safe and secure environment.”
Since the meeting took place on the first day of school, Cooper shared Arapahoe County data in her COVID-19 update. Any other data the district has is from the previous school year, she said.
The school district is following the county's daily incidence rates for COVID-19, a rolling seven-day average of cases, for children in various age groups. Cooper reported there were 16 cases per 100,000 children ages 5 to 10; 15 cases per 100,000 children ages 11 to 14; and 18 cases per 100,000 children ages 15 to 18. The hospitalization rate for those 18 and under stood at 0.33 per 100,000.
“If you do the math, that's one child hospitalized for every 300,000,” Cooper said.
The school district is reinforcing the recommendation that people wear masks indoors, Cooper said. The recommendation has been given by the Centers of Disease Control, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Tri-County Health Department.
But the district is also leaving the choice up to students and parents, Cooper said.
Superintendent Brian Ewert, who visited 11 Littleton schools that day, said he observed 10% to 40% of people wearing masks.
Littleton Public Schools joins Cherry Creek and Douglas County school districts in not enforcing a mask mandate. Englewood Schools, however, does require masks for all people inside its buildings regardless of vaccination status.
“I feel like, without a choice, my children walked off to school today as one of the 10% to 40% masked,” one Littleton mother said to the board. “That's a heavy load to leave on a first- and a fifth-grader.”
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