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Forest Hills requires masks for elementary students, but optional for middle and high schoolers

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Posted at 10:05 PM, Aug 11, 2021

The Forest Hills School District voted on their mask plan for the 2021-22 school year Wednesday evening, deciding that elementary school students will be required to wear them, while face coverings will be optional for middle and high school students.

“I feel like they should be able to decide what’s best for their children and be an advocate,” Forest Hills parent Shawna Myers said.

The board’s decision sparked a lot of discussion from parents – and one board member.

“I think we’re getting into dangerous territory if we as a school board think we have the right to do that,” Forest Hills School Board member Elizabeth Maier said.

The decision came down to several factors: With more students attending school this year, social distancing will be difficult and contact tracing and quarantining would impact a larger group should a positive COVID-19 case be discovered among students.

“Local agency requires we have no choice in this: If we have a contact in a classroom, we are required to do quarantine, and that is with all close contacts,” Forest Hills superintendent Scot Prebels said. “Just as a point of reference: Last year, when children were masked, if we had a quarantine situation, it impacted a few students. This year, if we have no masks, that obviously impacts the entire classroom."

For elementary school students, most kids in that age group aren’t eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why the board voted for mandatory masks for those classroom settings.

For middle and high school students, some of whom can be vaccinated, masks are optional.

The school board will re-evaluate its decision on Sept. 13.

A group of concerned parents gathered to protest outside of Nagel Middle School before the meeting.