The Blaine County School District board of trustees on Sunday approved a resolution to rescind the district's mask mandate effective Monday, Feb. 28.
The district's policy requiring masks in school buildings—based on federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for face coverings—will be replaced with an optional mask policy for staff, students and visitors.
The policy will remain in place "for the foreseeable future," board Chairman Keith Roark said in a written statement after the special meeting of the board.
"We will continue to monitor local health conditions and inform our families right away if any changes to our protocols become necessary," he said.
Since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, the board has followed CDC guidelines for mitigation of COVID-19 on School District grounds, which included the mandatory masking protocol.
In its resolution, the board stated that the administration of the district had determined it was time to make the transition to a voluntary masking policy. Trustees agreed that a downward trend in the spread of COVID-19 in Blaine County, coupled with county's high vaccination rate, justified the change.
The district and board also made the decision "based on the latest CDC guidance, which is easing its mask recommendations in areas where COVID-19 is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals," Roark said in his statement.
The CDC’s risk-classification system deems Blaine County to be at a “medium” level risk, in which the CDC now recommends masks only if someone, or someone close to them, is immune-compromised.
“It is my own view, the CDC guidelines, having been amended Friday, is a very big factor in the decision we make today,” Roark said at the meeting. “In addition to that, we now have vaccines available that were not even off the drawing board at the time we adopted these procedures originally. We have these vaccines not only available, but we have the highest vaccination rate percentage in the entire state.”
In a COVID-19 risk assessment for Blaine County released Thursday, the South Central Public Health District rated the overall risk as "high." The impact on the county's hospital, St. Luke's Wood River, was deemed "moderate."
In his written statement, Roark said the district will provide "a welcoming environment in which everyone feels comfortable wearing a mask if they choose to do so."
"We ask that everyone demonstrate kindness and care to others, regardless of the decision they make," he said.
The city of Hailey still has an indoor mask mandate. It is not yet known whether mask requirements in School District buildings located in the city—including Wood River High School, Wood River Middle School and two elementary schools—will be enforced or not.