School district considers bus mask mandate

Alexis Barker
School district considers bus mask mandate
Alexis Barker
NLJ News Editor
The Weston County School District No. 1 board of trustees tabled a discussion on a mask mandate for all students on school buses during its regular meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 30. According to transportation director Troy Allen, a large majority of the bus drivers in the district feel masks should be required. 
“The drivers have some concerns with what is going on in the community with COVID. There are concerns about not getting infected,” Allen said. “A bus is considered a confined space and we have to keep the occupancy under 50. That is not a problem on most routes, but there are concerns over student health and theirs (bus drivers’) health. Two-thirds of our drivers are over 60 and are considered more susceptible.” 
According to Allen, the school districts that he had been in contact with regarding masks all said they require masks on the bus. 
Drivers are wearing masks, and face shields, in most situations, Allen explained. The drivers also make hand sanitizer and masks readily available, he said, although  they are rarely used. 
“With our policy, face masks are recommended but not required. The WHSAA (Wyoming High School Athletics Association) requires them for activities if people are not social distancing,” Allen said. “On a majority of our routes, you can’t social distance. The kids are close together. The drivers are concerned. We would like something more black and white with masks.”
Allen noted that the concerns go beyond COVID-19 and include the spread of the cold and flu during the upcoming season. 
“I am okay with mandating masks on the bus,” said Tina Chick, board chairman. “I feel there is no way to social distance. … I am not ready to say all day throughout the entire school day, but I am okay with doing it on a bus.” 
Trustee Dana Mann-Tavegia added that she was in favor of changing “recommend” mask wearing to “must” wear a mask. Especially, she noted, seeing the number of quarantines required when cases do arise. 
“We are protecting more people. If they can’t wear a mask, then they can’t wear a mask,” Mann-Tavegia said. “We are protecting more people this way, keeping schools open and keeping activities going.”  
Concerns were raised by different individuals, including trustee Marcia Lambert, who questioned who would teach the youngsters proper mask techniques and Superintendent Brad LaCroix, who said he was concerned about bus drivers focusing on the wrong thing.
“Here is my No. 1 concern, a bus driver looking in the mirror to see who is masked and not masked. I worry about that, especially with winter conditions coming,” LaCroix said. “I see a lot of people at every venue for activities that do good until they get in and then they (the masks) are off.” 
Trustee Jason Jenkins said he was opposed to a mask mandate. 
“If the driver is scared, then they can mask up. It should be up to the parents, not the schools,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think we (school boards) are in the position to mandate whether students wear masks or not, and I don’t think the state should either.” 
Trustee Tom Wright argued that there are several requirements for students to attend public school, including vaccinations. He added that students are not required to ride the bus and parents could transport them to school if they are against mask wearing. 
“I could argue the other way. Parents who are concerned can mask kids on the bus. If the masks work, then have your child mask up, and everyone should be good,” Jenkins said. 
Wright maintained that the mask requirement should be considered. He reminded the board that the district is not “overrun” with bus drivers or substitute drivers, just like the district is also not “overrun” with science teachers and second grade teachers.
“There are not a lot of options out there. If masking helps, then maybe we ought to be doing it. At least during the cold and flu season months,” Wright said. “Let’s put it on the agenda for the next meeting, and he (Allen) can come with a proposal and recommendations.” 
LaCroix added that the district should consider the mandate and discuss what should be done when a student does not comply. 
“I am not for leaving kids at bus stops,” LaCroix said, noting that someone will need to pick up those who do not comply if they are not allowed to get on the bus. 
Jenkins suggested that the school ask for parent input, and Chick asked if statistics could be found on transmission rates on buses. 
Board members agreed to add a mask mandate discussion to their Oct. 11 meeting agenda. 
In the meantime, LaCroix reiterated to the News Letter Journal the need for everyone to remain kind and understanding through these difficult times. He maintained that he wants things normal as much, if not more, than others but that we are just not in “normal times right now.”
“There are simply some who can not (wear masks). For those who can, maybe that is something that we do that helps out those who can not,” LaCroix said. “For me it isn’t about politics. It isn’t about me and it isn’t about you. It is about all of us.” 
LaCroix expressed that he looks at mask wearing no different than bus crossings or playground safety, and maybe others should too. 
“We want everyone to watch out for everyone. It is about how we do that while respecting everyone,” LaCroix said. “There are lots of different people out there with lots of different health conditions and everyone has value.” 

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