Colorado deputies will be deployed in more significant numbers at local schools to ensure the safety and the smooth running of school business following tensions in the community over mask mandates.
After growing discontent in the community following Eagle County School’s mask mandates, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office will be cooperating with the school district to “ensure the safety of our children” as kids go back to school, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office wrote.
The school district also reached out to the community in a press release, and urged community members to not interfere with the school’s order.
A key paragraph from the press release read: “District leaders have heard from many community members on both sides of the mask issue. Public input is valued and helps inform leaders of community expectations. Some will not agree with this change and may wish to express their feelings publicly. The district asks that protests be directed at locations other than schools. It is imperative that schools begin on Monday without disruption or additional emotional stress on students and staff.”
The sheriff’s office released a statement with a similar message.
“Our goal is the same as yours, getting our children back to school safely,” the statement read. “Law Enforcement is requesting that persons who are wishing to express their opinions not interfere or interrupt the freedom of movement and the functions of schools.”
The increased law enforcement presence comes after the school district recently announced that masks would be required by teachers, students, staff and visitors at elementary and middle schools in the district, as well as during indoor athletic events.
The decision was made hastily following a meeting with the county public health department, and upset many parents in the community.
Superintendent Philip Qualman said the change was made last-minute as a result of rising cases of COVID-19 in the county. The order allows schools to continue to hold in-person instruction five days a week.
For parents who do not want their children to wear masks at school, the school district press release suggested they enroll in the district’s online school, World Academy, choose another alternative outside of the district or opt for homeschooling.
“We are hopeful this is a short-term scenario and that our community continues to get vaccinated and take care of one another. We ask for everyone’s cooperation and understanding as we navigate these unprecedented times,” Qualman concluded.
The sheriff’s office spokeswoman told the Denver Post that deputies do not plan on enforcing the mask mandate, but rather ensuring that the schools are not interrupted by demonstrations.
“As long as they’re not interfering with the day-to-day activities with parents, teachers, and staff getting in and out of the building, as long as they’re not disrupting school functions, it shouldn’t be a big deal,” the news release said. “People are allowed to voice their opinions. They just cannot be impeding traffic or the flow in and out of the school.”
Eagle County Public Health said they expect to lift the order when “the incidence rate falls below 50 cases per 100,000 for seven consecutive days,” according to the release.