Update on Mask Mandate for Kindergarten through 11-Years Old

Dear STEM School Highlands Ranch Families,

We received word this week from the Douglas County School District that Tri-County Health has voted to implement a public health order changing their stance on mask wearing for children ages 2-11 from recommended to REQUIRED.

Given that Tri-County Health Department has the legal authority to issue public health orders, DCSD is obligated to follow their mask-wearing requirement. Neighborhood, private, magnet, and charter schools within Tri-County Health Department’s jurisdiction all fall under this public health order as well.

While DCSD is going to require masks for students through sixth grade, regardless of age, STEM will be requiring masks for students in kindergarten through 11 years of age. Students 11 years of age and younger will not need to wear a mask when outside or at lunch.

Our STEM Board of Directors and Leadership Team believe that since our youngest learners do not yet have the option of receiving the vaccine, this is a safe way for us to comply with the Tri-County Health Order.

The STEM Board of Directors and the Leadership Team strongly believe that keeping our doors open for in-person learning is so important for the mental health and wellbeing of our students and our staff. While they do not want to be restrictive to anyone’s personal choice, they do understand that in order for us to be able to remain open to in-person learning we must have enough staff who can support our students. If our teaching and non-teaching staff are out due to illness or mandated quarantine, it puts a great strain on our ability to operate safely and adds stress on our students and staff.

Having to send a class, grade-level or a school to virtual learning due to an outbreak is not the goal, so the STEM Board of Directors and the Leadership Team believe that complying with the mask mandate for the time being is the best course of action to help keep our doors open.

We will also be requiring the following:

  • Staff members who work with students in grades kindergarten through students who are 11-years old, will also be required to wear a mask.
  • Masks will also be required indoors for before and after school activities (including BASE) and Enrichment Programming up until age 11.
  • In addition, any visitors to our buildings (regardless of grade levels served) will be required to wear a face covering.
  • This includes DCSD staff and contractors who are inside school buildings when students are present.
  • Students and staff should bring their own face covering (however, masks will be made available upon request). Click here for information on how to select the most effective masks and how to wear masks correctly and consistently for the best protection.

We will honor mask-wearing exemptions for students who cannot tolerate a face covering due to medical or mental health reasons as provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Please contact nurse@stemk12.org for next steps.

In the coming weeks, it is anticipated that the COVID vaccine will be made available to children ages 2-11. Health experts advise that the vaccination will be a critical mitigation factor moving forward.

DCSD (and STEM) will also continue with the following layered approach to COVID mitigation:

  • Encouraging frequent hand washing and providing access to hand sanitation stations.
  • Continuing with increased ventilation in buildings.
  • Encouraging outdoor learning and activities where possible.
  • Disinfecting frequently.
  • Implementing physical distancing where possible.
  • Providing families and staff with information about COVID vaccination and testing opportunities.
  • Notifying families when their student may have been exposed to COVID so they may screen for symptoms and access COVID testing if desired.
  • Notifying staff members when they may have been exposed to COVID so they may screen for symptoms and access COVID testing if desired.

It is critical to note that the protocols listed above will not be most effective without the partnerships of our families and staff. Please continue to do your part by keeping students home, and/or staying home yourself, when showing symptoms of illness. Please reference this symptom screening document for guidance on when it is safe to return to school after illness.

We will continue to keep you all updated as information changes.

Thank you,

Your STEM Leadership Team

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