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Meeting Gets Heated In Douglas County, Some Parents Say Recommendation For Masking In Schools Is Too Much

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – Discussion over the Douglas County School District's decision to recommend mask wearing for students and staff elicited a fiery response from parents at a community forum Wednesday.

Superintendent Corey Wise hosted the event to share more information about the current COVID protocols ahead of the 2021-2022 school year. It took place at Rock Canyon High School, but was also livestreamed on the district's YouTube page so more people could tune in.

The item that led to an angry response from the audience was the district's decision to recommend mask wearing for students and staff.

"I am not doing this!" shouted one woman.

"Slow down and listen," Wise later urged.

Two weeks ago, the district announced that face coverings will be "strongly encouraged" while learning indoors for those students ages 11 and under but not required. The same recommendation goes for those students ages 12 and over who are not fully vaccinated.

The Cherry Creek School District, Aurora Public Schools, and Boulder Valley School District have also announced similar policies. So far, Jeffco Public Schools, Poudre School District, and Denver Public Schools have announced mask mandates.

Wise said the decision to recommend and not require mask wearing was in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tri-County Health Department.

"They are recommending. What I am asking is when will you mandate if you mandate," Wise said. "I think the clarity that all of us, myself and a lot of superintendents, are looking for is you are the medical experts, you tell us what should be recommended and required."

Wise said a high vaccination rate of students and staff leaves DCSD in a good place for now. According to data from the Tri-County Health Department shared during the forum, 73 percent of the eligible population in Douglas County has at least one shot and 64.4 percent have both.

"I'm anticipating the need to possibly adjust so we have plans set to open for a great school year but then have to look with our data and work with Tri-County to continue our adjustments and next steps," Wise said.

It's a possibility that concerns Gwen Spahn, who has two children enrolled at Renaissance Expedition Learn Outward Bound School in Castle Rock.

"When they tell us that it's recommended but can make a decision, and two weeks into school they say sorry, it's our decision, I have a problem with that," Spahn said.

With a goal of keeping kids in the classroom, wise asked parents for flexibility and understanding.

"The best plans allow you to adjust, and we'll be working with all to continue that moving forward."

Masks will be required on school buses, due to a federal mandate. Outside of that, the district has a full COVID-19 plan, which includes protocols for social distancing, ventilation, and isolation.

There are also resources for how to get a vaccine. Currently, the district does not require them for students and staff, but highly encourages them.

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