‘Unwavering concern’: SLC school district thanks Mayor Mendenhall for seeking school mask mandate

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FILE – In this May 18, 2021 file photo, fifth graders wearing face masks are seated at proper social distancing during a music class at the Milton Elementary School in Rye, N.Y. As the nation closes out a school year marred by the pandemic, some states are now starting to release new standardized test scores that offer an early glimpse at just how far students have fallen behind — with some states reporting that the turbulent year has reversed years of progress across every academic subject. New York, Georgia and some other states pushed to cancel testing for a second year so schools could focus on classroom learning. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City School District issued a statement Friday thanking SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall for seeking a mask mandate for students under the age of 12 in Salt Lake City schools.

The statement reads:

“The Salt Lake City School District would like to thank Mayor Mendenhall for her unwavering concern for the health and safety of our students during this ongoing pandemic. Our students’ health and well-being have always been and remain our priority. We recognize that individuals across the country have varying ideas and opinions on the issue of mask mandates. Nevertheless, the district firmly believes that wearing masks decreases the spread of the COVID-19 virus and is convinced that our mask-wearing guidelines implemented during the last school year were critical to allowing our schools to remain open. We will continue our current practice of strongly encouraging all students, employees, and visitors to wear masks in our schools and buildings.  

Mayor Mendenhall has recently indicated her willingness to institute a mask mandate to protect the students in our district. We recognize that the mayor has broad powers, independent of the board of education, under the Disaster Response and Recovery Act to address local emergencies and disasters affecting the city. Accordingly, we will await the mayor’s decision on whether she will issue an executive order.

We strongly support the belief that we as a community must protect our children who are not eligible to get vaccinated at this time by wearing masks. Further, we would like our families to understand that the current law prohibits the district or a school from issuing a mask mandate. The Utah Legislature passed HB 1007, which clearly states that local education agencies and schools “may not require an individual to wear a face-covering to attend or participate in in-person instruction.” Additionally, the Legislature outlined a path for implementing a mask mandate in public schools, starting with a public health official’s recommendation and then approval through the county commission. The county health director Dr. Angela Dunn recommended a mask mandate for our county, and we support the legislative process and Dr. Dunn’s guidance. We are committed to ensuring a healthy and safe environment for our students again by strongly encouraging everyone to wear masks in our schools and buildings. We must all take collective responsibility for our most vulnerable children.

We realize the rapidly evolving nature of this matter may cause some confusion among our employees, students, and parents. Therefore, with the first day of school approaching, we are committed to communicating any new information with our staff and families as soon as it is available. In the meantime, we are excited and getting ready for the start of school. You can read our detailed COVID-19 mitigation plans on our district website: https://www.slcschools.org/resources/covid-19-and-schools.”

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