Utah student face-covering guidelines, who decides them?

News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Can school districts mandate students to wear face coverings? Many district officials want to know that answer.

The Utah State Board of Education is requiring masks for all staff and teachers, as well as on buses.

Most school districts return to school fall plan state they won’t enforce a face covering or mask mandate on students, but use the time to educate students who don’t want to wear a mask while not denying them an education.

“The key is both to have schools safe and to be able to instruct students,” says Utah State Board of Education Public Relations Director Mark Peterson. “In some cases that means children are wearing masks, in some cases that doesn’t, but we would ask districts and charters to work with their local health districts in determining what is best and safest for kids at schools.”

Peterson tells us local health departments or the state can decide if a district should enforce a mask mandate.

We asked Salt Lake and Summit Counties what the stipulations for students are in their counties.

“Our order is only for commercial establishments and community events,” Salt Lake County Health Department Nicholas Rupp tells us in a statement. “I don’t believe we have the authority to go beyond what the state’s phased guidelines say for schools, which is that faculty and staff are required to wear face coverings when distancing is not feasible and that while student face coverings are not required across all school settings, schools should explore strategies to utilize them.”

Summit County Health Department is working with its school districts on the ordinance.

“We’re working closely with the school districts and the school boards to determine how the ordinance will apply when school starts. There are also appeals in place that could potentially result in modifications to the order before then,” said Summit County Communication & Public Engagement Director Derek Siddoway. “While it has not been determined if/what exemptions or modifications schools may have, masks are required indoors at all public locations and at outdoor gatherings of 50 or more at this time.”

Peterson adds, “But that does not mean a school district or charter school could not require them, they could.”

All of the reopening plans will depend on the COVID-19 case count this fall and what phase each area is in.

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Jason Nguyen
Jason Nguyen is an award-winning reporter and photojournalist who is back with ABC4 News as the lead reporter on Good Morning Utah, bringing over a decade of news experience to the team.

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