After 10 months of living under a statewide mask order, Coloradans saw a major step toward ending the requirement to wear masks in public spaces announced by Gov. Jared Polis on May 14.
The governor announced changes to Colorado’s mask order following updated guidance by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of May 13 that says fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by law or regulations, or local business and workplace guidance.
Colorado moved from a mask-wearing requirement to “guidance,” Polis said. That means for those not vaccinated yet, state officials suggest — “not order, but suggest,” Polis said — that they continue to wear a mask in indoor settings around others.
In some settings, Colorado still requires masks unless people can prove they are vaccinated. Those include prisons and jails, health care facilities, and schools, Polis said.
In school settings, vaccinated Coloradans — including children who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine — may remove masks where the teachers or caregivers have provided proof of fully completed vaccination to their employer. But ultimately, allowing students and teachers to go maskless is up to school districts, according to a fact sheet on the mask order.
Regarding school officials who say they’re not allowed to inquire about vaccination status, Polis said that only people who can demonstrate they’re vaccinated can go without masks.
“If the teacher chooses to demonstrate they are vaccinated, they’ll no longer need to wear masks,” Polis said at the May 14 news conference.
A person can show proof of vaccination by showing their vaccination card, a picture of the vaccination card on a cell phone or a copy of their immunization records, according to the governor’s office.
Despite the change to Colorado’s mask-wearing order, Cherry Creek School District generally stuck to its policy on requiring mask-wearing for the last couple weeks of the year.
“All students and staff must continue to wear masks inside schools. They no longer need to wear them outside,” said Abbe Smith, district spokesperson.
May 28 is the last day of school for all schools in the district, according to Cherry Creek’s website.
Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, the Cherry Creek School District opened a K-5 online program in fall 2020, and that option will continue for the 2021-22 school year for families that prefer it.
Having closed out the spring semester with full-time, in-person classes for families that chose it, the district hopes to allow students back full-time in the fall, but it’s prepared to switch to online-only classes for all students if recommended or required by public health officials.
“We will follow all health orders and guidelines but are hoping and planning for a return to full in-person learning,” said Abbe Smith, spokesperson for the school district.
The district’s extension of an online program for elementary students comes in addition to the option of enrolling in Cherry Creek Elevation, the district’s online school that serves middle and high school students.
See information about applying to the online programs at tinyurl.com/CherryCreekOnlineApply.
As students adjusted to remote classes amid pandemic restrictions, the district lent students roughly 7,000 laptop devices in spring 2020 and distributed thousands more later in the year with an eye toward families in need. In total, the district provided 14,000 computers over the past year for students, Smith said.
At the start of this school year, Cherry Creek district operated under a hybrid, or “blended,” model for grades six through 12 that placed half of students in school Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with the other half attending Thursday and Friday.
The district decided to move entirely to online classes in early November amid a steep climb in the daily rate of new COVID-19 cases in Arapahoe County. It brought the blended in-person schedule back in January.
All middle and high schools in the district reopened for full-time, in-person classes on April 5. Earlier this semester, the Douglas County, Jefferson County, Littleton, Adams 12 Five Star and Weld Re-8 school districts had made similar decisions. Westminster Public Schools was providing full-time, in-person learning at all levels since the semester began.
Through all the changes in Cherry Creek, many families had chosen to enroll students in the district’s voluntary online programs — the new K-5 program and Cherry Creek Elevation. As of mid-January, the district had about 10,100 students enrolled in online class. Cherry Creek has roughly 55,000 students total.
Preschool and K-5 students who did not choose online schooling had been in full-time in-person classes since the start of the school year except for when all district students went remote in late fall.
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