Caldwell School District brings back its mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge

Darin Oswald/doswald@idahostatesman.com
·2 min read

The Caldwell School District is once again bringing back its mask requirement.

The district’s board on Monday voted to mandate masks for students and staff until the next board meeting, which is Feb. 14. The board also gave the superintendent the ability to remove the mandate if student and staff absences go down.

“The Board will continue to review weekly COVID-19 data and information to see if any other action needs to be taken,” Superintendent N. Shalene French said in an update on the district’s website. “The goal of the district is to keep school open and students attending every day.”

The move comes as COVID-19 cases have been surging across Idaho, leaving many schools struggling to cover for the number of teachers and staff members out sick.

The Caldwell School District removed its mask mandate in November after the vaccine became available for children in the 5-11 age group.

Earlier this month, the district had to close all schools temporarily due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, along with staffing shortages and large student absences.

According to a presentation given to the board Monday, over the past two weeks, student absences in the district have hovered between 15% and 20%. On two days following the closure, more than 1,000 students were absent. Between about 50 and 100 staff members have also been absent each day over the past two weeks, according to the presentation.

Other schools and districts in the Treasure Valley have had to close temporarily as a result of COVID-19, including several schools in the Nampa School District and at least two schools in Boise.

Some districts are now trying to find new ways to attract substitute teachers. The West Ada School District is offering extra incentives for substitutes who work more often, and for teachers who sacrifice their prep periods and breaks to cover for those out sick.

The Nampa School District is offering bonuses of up to $70 per day for substitutes.

Most school districts, including West Ada and Nampa, don’t have mask mandates in place. The Boise School District has required masks since school started last fall.

Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is partly funded through community support. Click here to donate.

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