Districts divided: Schools across the country struggle with mask decisions

Back To School

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The CDC recommends students and teachers wear masks in the classroom.

Local health systems, including Sanford, also recommend everyone wears a mask whenever possible. But even with that advice, you won’t see many masks in South Dakota classrooms.

This week, the head of the Sioux Falls school district said she wants to avoid “ugliness” in the district.

Sioux Falls students and teachers are back in school. Those who are unvaccinated are “encouraged” to wear masks.

Just 56-percent of people 12-and older are vaccinated in South Dakota, but you won’t find many masks in this first day of school video we shot at Jefferson High School.

With 24,000 children in the district, it’s impossible to get every parent to agree on how to keep kids safe. Superintendent Jane Stavem say she wants every child to feel welcome.

“We look all across the country and you see some real ugliness coming from this. We don’t want to have that in the Sioux Falls School District or in our community…” Stavem said.

That ugliness includes retaliation against school board members in districts with mask requirements, including Fargo, North Dakota, and Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Our community is somewhat divided but I would say that it currently favors a mask requirement at this time around 70-30,” SUSD governing board member Jann-Michael Greenburg said.

In both districts, angry parents are taking steps to recall board members who voted in favor of masks.

“At this point, what choice do parents have to make a difference if the board is not hearing them?” parent Carine Werner said.

In districts still debating masks, you’ll find protests, including one in New Jersey where children joined their parents.

“I am protesting, my body, my choice because I believe that if someone wants to wear a mask, then they can wear a mask, because it’s their body and they get to choice,” sixth grader Gavin Wiltshire said.

Back in South Dakota, policies could changes as case numbers grow.

When Harrisburg students started the school year masks were optional; as of Friday, they are “strongly recommended.”

The number of kids who’ve had COVID is more than four-times higher today than a month ago.

A new CDC report shows just how quickly it can spread in a classroom. The report says one teacher, who sometimes took her mask off to read students stories, spread the virus to 12 kids – more than half her class.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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