Victor Elementary School will issue its own mask mandate in defiance of Teton County School District No. 401.
The school’s principal, Megan Christiansen, announced the order Thursday in a letter to parents and staff.
“Victor Elementary is my family, and I am watching them crumble in front of me,” she wrote. “As their leader, it is time for me to stand up and stop what is happening.”
Starting Monday, Sept. 20, all students, staff and visitors will be required to mask up at Victor Elementary, according to Christiansen’s letter. Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme said via email that he and the district elementary admin team support the measure.
The Teton School District, which oversees the Victor, Idaho, school, has decided not to issue a districtwide mask mandate and refused to comply with the town’s universal masking order.
Last week, the elementary school was forced to send students home amid coronavirus exposures that led to seven staff and 60 student absences. Not all absences were the result of COVID-related quarantines, Woolstenhulme said in a letter to parents.
During the three-day shutdown, parents were suddenly forced to find day care alternatives. Programming decisions were left to individual teachers, said Iris Saxer, the mother of a Victor Elementary second grader.
Saxer said she was thrilled her daughter would be able to return to her classroom on Monday in what she hopes will be a safer environment.
“It was discouraging to start the school year with the shutdown,” she said. “I was on the verge of transferring my daughter to a private school if [the mask mandate] wasn’t going to happen.”
Victor Mayor Will Frolich, who has a daughter in kindergarten at the school, said he fully supports principal Christiansen’s decision.
“I’m glad Megan stepped up in showing true leadership and protecting her staff, teachers and students,” Frolich told the Jackson Hole Daily. “I think the more we come together as a community, the better chance we have of protecting the community’s health and safety.”
He and Saxer both pointed to last year’s more aggressive masking requirements, which they said spared the school from significant closures and maintained stability for the young students.
This year, with the contagious delta variant filling up hospital beds across Idaho, masks are once again needed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Christiansen said.
“If we do not do this the cycle will continue, families will suffer, people will continue to get sick and our integrity and hard work will be diminished,” she wrote. “Masks are one simple step we can take to stay in school and stay healthy.”