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Clark County School District announces mask mandate for upcoming school year

Chanel Pulido
Chanel Pulido
CoronavirusEducation
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Students and staff in the Clark County School District will have to pack masks for the first day of school next month after the district announced Tuesday that all “students and staff are required to wear face masks indoors, unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use.” 

The announcement changes the district’s former policy, which went into effect June 1, that made masks mandatory for students in fourth and fifth grade but optional for students in pre-kindergarten through third grade and for those in grades 6 through 12 who have been fully vaccinated. 

The district did not identify a specific date through which the mandate will run. District officials said they will continue to monitor the state of the pandemic to evaluate their strategies.

Rising case numbers and stagnating vaccination rates in Southern Nevada have raised concerns about the health and safety of students as they return to in-person learning in the upcoming school year, particularly those age 12 and under who are ineligible for a vaccine. 

“The District is committed to opening schools for all students as safely as possible for in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year,” Clark County School District officials said in the statement. 

The decision comes after the Clark County School District announced last week that employees would be required to wear face masks through at least Aug. 17, and the Clark County Commission mandated face coverings for employees working in indoor public spaces. The state also recently announced that its employees will be required to either present proof of vaccination status or undergo weekly COVID testing. 

The district cited the high transmission rates of COVID-19 and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Southern Nevada Health District and the American Academy of Pediatrics as reasons for the change.

Last week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its guidance, recommending that children older than age two wear face masks regardless of vaccination status. The academy’s stance is stricter than the Centers for Disease Control’s, which recommends that only students and staff who are not fully vaccinated wear masks inside schools. 

The mask mandate is part of a “layered approach” – which also includes promoting vaccinations and clean hands hygiene – to ensure that students can safely return to in-person learning, the academy said. Getting students back to in-person learning safely is critical to maintaining their mental, emotional, and physical health, Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, said in a statement last week. 

Other school districts have not yet updated their mask policies. The Elko County School Board sent Gov. Steve Sisolak a letter last month urging him to not implement any mask or vaccine mandate for future school years. 

Clark County School District’s announcement may come as a relief for some educators who spoke out about their concerns with entering a new school year without a mask mandate

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