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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheridan County School Districts 1 and 2 drop mask mandate for students

A teal paper facemask lies flat on a white background.
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The only two school districts in Northeast Wyoming that instituted mask mandates this year have decided to discontinue them for students.

Both Sheridan County School District (SCSD) No. 1 and No. 2 held board meetings on November 16th to address the mandates.

SCSD No.1 Superintendent Pete Kilbride, whose district includes Tongue River and Big Horn, said the board's decision was made after consultation with public health officials.

"What's happened over the last couple of weeks is our numbers have gone way down in the county and our public health officer—we asked for an audience with him—and he said, 'I think it’s time to lift the mask mandate and go with just strongly recommend,'" Kilbride said.

Kilbride added that of the approximately 190 faculty in the district, 110 responded to a survey with 60 percent stating they had been vaccinated and 20 percent have tested positive for antibodies.

He also thinks that reimposing a mask mandate won't be necessary, saying more people are getting vaccinated and that children are now able to get vaccinated as well. Despite this, he said there will likely still be an increase in the number of cases, something the district is monitoring.

Scott Stults, superintendent of SCSD No. 2, which includes the city of Sheridan, said the district's policy would change when conditions did. Meetings with public health officials also played a part in their decision.

"Students can mask if they wish to, staff can mask if they wish to, and provide an opportunity to reduce the spread. Because the number is so low, Dr. [Ian] Hunter [Sheridan County Public Health Officer] as of yesterday is recommending that we strongly recommend masks, not require, but strongly recommend," he said.

Stults said this recommendation extends to school grounds and route buses when students are traveling to and from school. Students who participate in extracurricular activities and athletics also may have stricter mask requirements and are subject to protocols established by the activities director, coach, or sponsor. He added the district will have zero tolerance for mask shaming for students who choose to wear one and that the district will evaluate their COVID-19 plans every two weeks.

Both districts' policies went into effect on November 17.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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