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Rochester schools considering changes to mask rules to require them for everyone

The school board will consider the proposal, as well as others, on Aug. 17.

Rochester public schools will vote next week on a change to the mask policy for the upcoming school year. 

In late July, the Rochester School Board unanimously approved mask guidelines that interim Superintendent Kent Pekel recommended that include requiring face coverings for students between the ages of 2-11, while masks were encouraged for everyone else. 

Now, at its Aug. 17 meeting, the school board will consider requiring masks for everyone in all school buildings, regardless of vaccination status, according to meeting documents. Masks wouldn't be required outside. 

A memo from Pekel to the board on Aug. 12 about the district's Safe Learning Plan says he wants to strengthen his original mask proposal as the delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread. He's also proposing that vaccine clinics operate at school buildings in partnership with Olmsted County, which Pekel hopes will help increase vaccination rates among students, staff and community members. 

Pekel also seeks authority from the board to make decisions on mask requirements in the future, so he doesn't have to go to the board for approval. He says this would allow a "more responsive approach to mask requirements as the spread and impact of the delta variant evolve over the course of the 2021-2022 school year." 

Related: The Minnesota businesses, organizations and events that now require or recommend a face mask

Additionally, Pekel's proposed Safe Learning Plan urges the district to develop an anonymous and optional process where staff and families can report their vaccination status, which will help inform face mask requirements in the future.

Other aspects of Pekel's proposal:

  • Allow 3 feet or more of social distancing between all people in Rochester Public School facilities
  • Visitors are welcome, so long as they wear a face covering and maintain social distance
  • Extracurricular activities, volunteering and field trips should be allowed, so long as everyone wears face coverings and adheres to other requirements in the Safe Learning Plan. 

The school board will consider the mask policy and Pekel's other proposals at the Aug. 17 meeting, which is at 5:30 p.m

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