ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) — Just days after Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a new public health order for schools requiring face shields to be worn with masks, the Washington County School District has asked for an exemption from the state.

The Centers for Disease Control (C-D-C) says face shields are not an appropriate substitute for masks, but school administrators tell ABC4 News they are sticking with their original plan, permitting shields by themselves to avoid “mass confusion.”

Steven Dunham, the district’s director of communications, noted that their schools were the first in the state to reopen and students and staff were already wrapping up their second school day when the state issued the new order Friday.

“I know a lot of school districts opened today, and it would be difficult for them to implement that over the weekend when it was given out on Friday,” Dunham said. “For us, it was nearly impossible.”

While the district says it will comply with the order eventually, school officials say they need time to course-correct and revamp their plans. Administrators sent out a statement to parents that they’re allowing face shields by themselves outside of the governor’s one exception, for now.

“This is not our final stance on this issue,” Dunham said. “We had to do this immediately to avoid confusion. We’ve had such a smooth opening and we wanted to stay on that course for right now.”

The only exemption to the governor’s order is the instance when a student needs to be able to see the mouth for communication, such as those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some teachers participating in speech therapy, for example, could wear shields without masks. The district says a significant number of all of their teachers, however, would prefer to wear them by themselves.

“The teachers feel like the students need to see their faces as they’re teaching the lessons,” Dunham said. “It’s very critical for some lessons, especially for the younger students, to be able to see how a teacher forms words, for instance.”

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The school board is expected to meet Monday evening to discuss when and how the district will be implementing the order. No timeline has been created yet, according to officials.

Katie Karalis
Katie worked as a multimedia journalist in Reno, Nevada for KRNV News 4 and in Quincy, Illinois for WGEM-TV before making the move to Utah. Katie graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she anchored and reported for the Emmy-award-winning Northwestern News Network.