Jeffco Public Schools mask mandate spurs protest

Coronavirus

DENVER (KDVR) — Mask mandates for young children continue to pop up across the Denver metro area.

But such rules have caused upset in Jefferson County, where students 11 and younger will be required to mask up at school.

Some who oppose the measure protested outside of Jefferson County Public Health on Wednesday, rejecting the protective measures health officials say is necessary to help prevent COVID-19 spread.

Masks required for Jeffco students age 3-11

Most Colorado counties are undergoing another surge of the virus, seeing significant transmission levels spurred by the highly contagious delta variant. Just like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jefferson County Public Health responded by recommending masks for everyone indoors.

The school district will only recommend that students 12 and older wear a mask, but they are implementing a mask requirement for students age 3-11, who cannot get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Dawn Comstock, the public health department’s executive director, said the move was made directly from science that shows children can contract the deadly virus and spread it to others.

“My job as the director of public health in Jefferson County is to follow the scientific evidence,” Comstock said. “JPS is putting the safety and health of their students above the nonscientific-based desires of one faction of students, and they are doing everything they can protect the health and safety of those children under 12 who cannot yet be vaccinated.”

Protesters reject COVID measures

The rules have caused upset among some district parents.

Those who protested outside the public health department Wednesday said they felt the right choice would be for parents to decide whether children should wear their masks at school or not.

Those in opposition include Diane Nickell, a teacher in the school district who denied the science the health department cites.

“(The students are) put in a position where they are put in fear every day they come into the building, because they are being taught if they come to school, they have the possibility of catching a virus they can die from and the science doesn’t support that,” said Nickell, who teaches music.

Parents outside the Jefferson County Health Department protesting against Jeffco Public Schools’ mask requirements on Aug. 4, 2021. (KDVR)

Comstock, the health director, said that while some parents are unhappy with the rules, not every parent is on board with doing away with face coverings.

“What’s being lost is that, when we see protest like what occurred at our building today, is that many other parents want to do everything they can to keep their children as safe as possible,” Comstock said.

The health department shut its doors because of the protest. They said they did that to keep their employees away from the crowd for their own safety. No one was hurt during the demonstration.

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