ST. GEORGE (ABC4 News) — The Washington County School District is receiving backlash after parents say their children should not be required to wear masks in the classroom this fall.
Superintendent Larry Bergeson told the school board in a live meeting Tuesday that mask wearing is the single most important thing the district can do to comply with public health guidance.
“We’ve had dozens and dozens of emails and phone calls from parents saying they do not want their children to wear masks,” the district’s director of communications Steve Dunham said.
“But it’s not based upon science,” Dunham added. “It’s based on opinion or political belief, and that’s not what this is about. This is about respect and the science behind it.”
Dunham tells ABC4 News mask wearing would likely only be required under the yellow or low-risk phase. The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has advised administrators that they must either provide social distancing in all classrooms, which the district says it does not have the space for, or require masks.
“Students learn better if they’re in the classroom with their peers and teachers,” Dunham said. “We want to provide for that, and if all we have to do to make that happen is wear a mask, then we will do that.”
A recent survey that received nearly 10,000 responses from parents — or about 45% of households — showed that majority preferred hand-washing over mask-wearing, according to Dunham.
The school district says it will use federal funding to purchase two masks per student. School officials says are developing contingency plans in the event that students do not show up wearing a mask or bully or mock students who wear them.
Administrators tell ABC4 News that some parents have told them they would rather home-school their kids than force them to wear a mask. The district says homeschooling is always an option.