Following the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children, Bonneville Joint School District 93 has removed the masking requirement from its COVID-19 response plan.
During the district’s board meeting on Wednesday, board members voted to change the language of the high-risk phase of the plan from the district “requiring” students and staff to wear masks to the district “expecting” students and staff to wear masks.
Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme noted during the board meeting the district never had a true masking requirement, since there was no disciplinary enforcement to students who did not wear masks.
“We’ll keep doing exactly what we did in the previous high-risk phase … It’s expected, if you don’t then we’ll continue to quarantine students who are exposed at school.” Woolstenhulme said. “We feel like that’s a critical step to take but there won’t be other punitive consequences.
Board members also voted to drop a section of the plan that stated the district may implement a testing program for students. Woolstenhulme said this was done after the majority of parents indicated they did not support a testing program in a September survey.
“We really didn’t know at the time (last summer) if we would do it or wouldn’t do it, but based on the survey results we had that we shared at the last board meeting, we’ve just eliminated that from the plan,” Woolstenhulme said.
COVID-19 case transmission is on a slight uptick in the district, Woolstenhulme said. On Thursday, the district reported a weekly average of 27.6 cases. He also mentioned the district would likely reenter the high-risk phase at some point this year.
Idaho Falls School District 91 reported 11 total cases (10 students) from Nov. 1 through Nov. 5, which was five more cases than the previous week. District 91 reported its October high number of weekly cases from Oct. 4 to Oct. 8 with 31 total cases.
The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 on Oct. 29. As of Wednesday, 3,037 Idaho children in this age group have received one dose of the vaccine, according to the Idaho Division of Public Health.
More than 54,000 Idaho children aged 12-17 are completely vaccinated according to the state health department. This group contains the lowest percentage of vaccinated individuals compared to other age groups the department tracks — 32% for children aged 12-15 and 39% for children aged 16-17.
The Department of Health and Welfare confirmed the first Idaho child to die from COVID-19 in a Tuesday news release. The child was an infant and died in October, the release said. The death was confirmed by the Southwest Health District.
Nearly 900 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported among children in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic, the release said.