Jefferson County Schools will require masks for students under age 12 to start the school year

Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s second-largest school district, announced Friday it will require students 3 to 11 years old to wear masks in class at the start of the upcoming school year. The age group is not yet eligible for COVID vaccines.

The district appears to be the first in the Denver metro area to mandate face coverings for kids, at least for part of its 67,000-student body.

Jeffco Schools said masks for students who are 12 and older are recommended for vaccinated students and strongly recommended for unvaccinated students, but not required. Teachers and staff who are unvaccinated must wear a mask inside, and visitors are required to no matter the vaccination status.

Littleton Public Schools earlier this week said it would not require teachers, staff or students to mask up, and the Douglas County School District said the same Friday, while other districts — including Denver Public Schools — haven’t issued rules.

“LPS will rely on parents to make the very best decision for their children,” Littleton Public Schools wrote in an email to families on Wednesday. “LPS will rely on staff members to make the best decision for themselves, as well.”

Aurora Public Schools recently issued guidance that “strongly” recommends masks for all unvaccinated students, though it will require face coverings for unvaccinated staff.

Please note that all students and staff will be required to wear masks on school buses regardless of vaccination status. This is in accordance with the CDC’s order requiring face masks on public transportation and at transportation hubs.

Colorado health officials recommended on July 20 that unvaccinated children two and up wear masks, but that was before national concerns grew over the quickly multiplying delta variant across the U.S. and ongoing reluctance by millions in the country to get vaccinated. The CDC revised its guidance on mask usage this week, recommending doing so for all teachers, staff, students and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

Jeffco Schools said Friday that nearly 74% of residents in the county over the age of 11 have received at least one shot of the vaccine. But it noted that Jefferson County Public Health said Thursday it recommended all people resume covering their faces in public indoor areas, regardless of vaccination status.

“JCPH has also indicated to us they will strictly enforce quarantine guidelines for exposure to COVID, and they have the legal authority to do so,” the school district said. “They have indicated they will require quarantines for routine classroom exposure for anyone unvaccinated and not wearing a mask. This has major implications for our students age 11 and under, who are not eligible for the vaccination at this time.”

The first day of school in Jefferson County is Aug. 17.

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