ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4) – The Washington County School District is welcoming students back this Thursday, but the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t changing very much when it comes to school protocols, according to the district spokesperson, Steven Dunham.

“We’re working closely with the health department, feel comfortable that we can open on time, and using some of the same protocols carried over from last year — are deep cleaning, are sanitizing frequent touch areas,” says Dunham.

Washington County is considered a “high transmission” area by the state health department, but face coverings will not be required, according to Dunham.

“The legislature passed HB 1007 last spring, and it kind of forbids us to make masks mandatory, so we can’t do that,” he says.

School leaders say they are also enforcing their anti-bullying policy for students wanting or needing to continue wearing masks, but changes may happen once school kicks into motion.

“Work with us a little bit here and be patient as we may need to adjust or change some of the rules throughout this process to ensure that we can keep schools open,” he says.

Dunham says about 70% of teachers are vaccinated to protect against COVID-19, and online learning is still an option for students.

“30 cases or more in our schools; if we hit that benchmark, we would have to go to remote learning for the students in that school or they would have to submit to a ‘test to stay’ scenario,” he says.

The district wants to remind any teachers or students who don’t feel well to just stay home.