The Carson City School District will not be requiring the use of facemasks for the 2021-22 school year, Superintendent Richard Stokes announced as the district’s Board of Trustees approved the safe school reopening plan Tuesday. Community members expressed concerns about language regarding the use of facemasks in the plan. Trustees approved the document ensuring its timely submission to the state of Nevada by Wednesday. The board approved its plan after making various revisions based on community input received since the draft plan was presented June 22. School districts are required to outline how they will provide instruction in 2021-22 via in-class or distance education for all students. They are obligated to offer options for students who have compromised health needs or to families who have English language learners, are on 504 plans, on individual education plans or might be in other special circumstances. Stokes presented changes for instructional and health purposes according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted schools, and one major sticking point was wearing masks, which will not be required this year. Other modifications also were made to the document regarding various departmental needs. Nutrition services will be provided to qualifying students. Under its “Operations” section addressing a number of departmental needs, staff deleted its guarantee to provide weekend meals but detailed information about its servings during its weekday servings. Also, students who are sent home when exhibiting flu-like symptoms will not be allowed to return to school until they are symptom free without having used fever-reducing medication for 24 hours. Some attendees on Tuesday hoped for more time to review the plan, but Stokes and board members emphasized they were under a strict deadline by the state to outline their educational strategies by Wednesday. “Obviously, we have a desire to foster positive relationships with schools and the community,” Stokes said. “The work we’re doing has to be fiscally responsible … I want the trustees and the community to know I understand and recognize the changes that have occurred.” But those in attendance jeered loudly upon Stokes’ reading that “Carson City School District highly encourages the use of facemasks for unvaccinated persons over the age of 2 years of age.” The verbiage frustrated many. Families and students spoke out against some of the specifics of the plan, with most opposing wearing masks back to school. Carson High School student Mori Kurland, who will begin in August as a sophomore in the Honors program, reflected on the past year on Tuesday operating under a hybrid model. He was concerned about being “highly encouraged” to wear masks when school reopens or on school property full-time. Carson City reopens in less than a month, with kindergarteners through 12th graders returning Aug. 16 and pre-kindergarteners going back Aug. 23. “It was incredibly difficult and damaging because we weren’t allowed to do what school regularly entails,” Kurland said about last year’s hybrid model. “We weren’t usually allowed within reasonable distances of other people. We weren’t even allowed to meet half the people we would regularly have known. … I’d just like to say I’m highly encouraged this year will be normal, and I think many parents, students and staff members here in the district are as well.” Resident Lee Elliott, who worked for Carson Middle School part-time for four years, said it’s important to “save our kids from critical race theory, from our masks, we need to save our kids from all this. Please look into your hearts and souls for our kids, not for you and me.” Carson City resident Barb Mathers, who currently has one child enrolled in the district, called masks a “psychological Band-Aid.” Mathers homeschooled her third-grade son last year while the school district was in its hybrid model, clarifying to the Appeal he chose not to attend public school under COVID-19 restrictions. She added her son would continue to be homeschooled this coming year because she felt there are a number of loopholes in the reopening plan to be enforced. “I don’t want masks in the schools, period,” she said at the board meeting. “We don’t need to add anything that causes further division.” Stokes explained individuals could wear masks voluntarily in schools, on school property or in school vehicles without fear of consequence. The document presented at the June 22 meeting originally stated, “All riders, including the bus driver, must wear face coverings at the time.” The sentence in the revised draft for Tuesday had been crossed out, along with the previous text about students without reserved seats not being permitted to enter a bus or riding a friend’s bus home. Later, Stokes added if anyone experiences any intimidation due to wearing a mask by choice, he asked him or her to bring it to his attention, saying such behavior would not be tolerated. Trustee Joe Cacioppo added the board heard much feedback in person and even in the supermarket that had been submitted. “Just to be clear, we’re not requiring masks,” he said. “If a kid shows up at a bus stop and that child or their family does not want them to wear a mask, their school day will be mask free.” After the meeting, Stokes told the Appeal his observations in putting the plan together came from observing the community at large around town and said many had felt neighborhoods and communities were “done with masks.” “We’re still sensitive to the fact, though, that we had very few teacher illnesses last year and we were able to get to the bottom of student illnesses quite quick and that’s because of a variety of strategies to protect our students,” Stokes said. “And so with this plan, we wanted to emulate some of those kind processes and activities aiming for the health and wellbeing of students.” He added CCSD’s staff members are anxious to return to school in a normal, traditional fashion and ready to put last year’s pandemic experience behind them as much as possible. “We appreciate the trust that the people have shown us and we are anxious for the school year to begin and counting on a more traditional year for the good of the community and our schools and our students,” he said. The document is available on the district’s website at www.carsoncityschools.com/cms/One.aspx?portalId=801611&pageId=66928046.