Bemidji Area Schools to shift from mask mandate to 'strong recommendation'
Bemidji Area Schools will move from their mandatory masking policy to a strong recommendation starting Tuesday, Feb. 22.
BEMIDJI — Bemidji Area Schools will move from their mandatory masking policy to a strong recommendation starting Tuesday, Feb. 22.
The district initially mandated masking for everyone regardless of vaccination status ahead of the school year at an Aug. 25 special board meeting .
Nearly six months later, the district is adjusting this policy and cites steep declines in community COVID cases.
“A couple of months ago, we were advised that the Omicron variant would rapidly increase in the community, but then would drop just as rapidly,” Superintendent Tim Lutz said in a release. “We are currently at the point where we see those numbers have dropped to a point where we believe we can move away from mandated masking.”
In some schools within the district, there have been no reported cases of COVID in the past three weeks. Additionally, the two-week rolling averages have dropped during that same time period.
“Between the vaccination rates of students and the numbers of people who now have post-COVID immunity, district officials believe mandatory masking is not necessary at this time but is still strongly recommended,” Lutz added.
Another major factor in changing the masking policy was the district receiving a shipment of KN95 masks from the Minnesota Department of Health available to those who want an added measure of protection.
Despite the adjustment, Lutz emphasizes that if conditions change and case numbers spike again, precautions like masking may go back into effect.
The Federal Transportation Administration still has a mask mandate in place on all public transportation, including school buses, until at least March 18. This mandate may be extended beyond that date depending on federal guidelines.