Heidi Reasoner felt a sense of relief when the Douglas County School District began requiring masks as a COVID-19 safety measure, first for students in preschool through sixth grade and later for all …
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Heidi Reasoner felt a sense of relief when the Douglas County School District began requiring masks as a COVID-19 safety measure, first for students in preschool through sixth grade and later for all people inside district buildings older than 2.
Reasoner is immunocompromised. The Ponderosa High School teacher was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder about a year ago, which causes her immune system to attack itself. She is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but still leery of contracting the virus, she said, which her body would struggle with if she caught it when off her medication.
“It was scary at first to get diagnosed with this and have this life-altering thing happening right in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.
Amid protests and tense school board meetings, where many families have voiced vehement opposition to mask mandates, other Douglas County families are nervously hoping the district stays its course — particularly as the county creates its own health department, which would void Tri-County Health Department's mask mandate for people in schools 2 and older.
Several people contacted Colorado Community Media to express their support for masking and mask-wearing rules, but declined interviews, were not available or did not respond to further requests for comment.
People who declined interviews or asked they not be named in this story cited concerns about retaliation from community members who oppose masking.
A Ponderosa High School student who supports masking spoke to Colorado Community Media on the condition she not be named for fear of brushback among students.
“A lot of kids at my school get very intense about the mask mandate, specifically the kids who think that there's no point,” she said.
The student said she grew frustrated watching student walkouts protesting mask requirements, saying masks are a simple step to curb COVID's spread. She wore her mask in hallways or in crowded spaces before a mandate for high school students but would remove it if sitting at lunch with people she knew.
Once masks became required, she followed that policy.
“Mandating them, it seemed reasonable to me. There's a lot of kids who wouldn't wear them otherwise and a lot of kids who still don't,” she said.
The Ponderosa student said there is enough evidence showing masks help contain COVID-19's spread. But 10 years from now, if that is proven otherwise, she won't regret masking, she said.
“Even if they were right about none of the science mattering, there is nothing wrong with trying to help other people,” she said.
Another Douglas County parent who supports mandates, Erica, asked that Colorado Community Media refer to her by first name only, also out of concern that her family would receive backlash in the community.
Erica's son is a sophomore at Highlands Ranch High School and her daughter attends Cresthill Middle School. Both her children voluntarily wore masks from the first day of school, she said.
“My stance is to follow the science and listen to the experts who have spent a lot of time in their respective field to be able to provide recommendations,” she said.
Erica and her children estimated about 60% of students started wearing masks correctly once mandates began, but that few students masked when it was voluntary.
Erica said the lack of masking left her with intense anxiety, especially as case rates climbed among school-age students in Douglas County. Watching mask protests and parents condemn mandates at school board meetings left her demoralized.
“It just feels like it's a losing battle,” she said. “I'm so exhausted from the outrage and the anxiety that I feel like I'm kind of just going numb.”
Reasoner's daughter Zaida attends fifth grade at Sedalia Elementary and masked before mandates came down. Zaida estimated about 10% of students voluntarily masked at the start of the school year.
Zaida said most students were respectful of her choice to wear a face covering, but she faced occasional pressure to stop.
“Some kids were telling me to just take my mask off. They told me that my mom wouldn't even know about it,” she said. “I told them I would keep it on.”
She's glad the district is requiring them, and believes students are more protected, she said.
In addition to being vulnerable to COVID-19, Reasoner experienced a loss during the pandemic. Her father died in November from COVID-19. Being unable to visit with him as he fought the virus or plan a normal funeral was difficult on the entire family, she said.
As she watched people in the district protest mask mandates, she wondered how many have experienced the pandemic's toll on a personal level.
“They really don't see the bigger picture of who we are trying to protect,” she said. “We're trying to protect everybody, not just the vulnerable.”
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