During Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, the Juneau school board announced that masks are optional for students and staff during the upcoming school year.
“Our mask policy is not on the agenda tonight as an action item. That is because we did not anticipate a change to that policy,” Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss said.
While masks remain optional, Weiss says the school district will focus on ventilation in buildings and encouraging people to stay home if they are sick.
One change from last year is that pre-K students will not be required to wear masks. Because vaccinations weren’t available to children under five, the youngest students in the school district did have to wear masks at school last year.
School Board President Elizabeth Siddon says she wants people to know masks are still required in cases where a student or staff member is exposed to COVID-19. That’s not a change in policy — just a continuation of the policy adopted last year.
The policy also requires mask use around high risk students, which is handled case by case, Siddon said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the school board moved to get rid of the requirement for all Juneau School District employees to test weekly. Last year, staff who were fully vaccinated and those who recently had COVID-19 were exempt from testing.
Emil Mackey was the only board member to vote against repealing weekly testing.
“If we repeal this requirement, what tool is left in our toolbox should we get another variant or a different disease that suddenly appears, to actually send the staff home?” Mackey asked the rest of the board.
Free at-home tests will be available for staff and students in school buildings. Staff can’t test students, but students can take them home to test.
One more change for this year is that students who travel to other communities for school activities won’t have to test first unless the destination community requires it.