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COLOMA — Coloma Community Schools is requiring indoor mask wearing for all students and staff through the end of the fall semester.

Superintendent Dave Ehlers said the mandate was effective as of Monday, where the district notified students and parents Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been something that was talked about for awhile,” he said. “I discussed this with school board members individually last week. The school board has not taken action on this. It is just a formality.”

Using emergency powers that were granted to him by the school board, Ehlers said he made this decision to prioritize in-person learning and keep students safe and healthy.

He said they expect to see a decrease in the number of students in quarantine due to the modified quarantining procedures – which allow students who are in close contact and asymptomatic to remain in school.

“Almost 15 percent of the kids were quarantined a couple weeks ago. That’s districtwide. We had cases in every building. It was pretty high,” Ehlers said. “You add that with the other percentage of kids that were out of school just to regular illness, and there was a three-day window where attendance in the district was in the mid-70s. We don’t want to quarantine the healthy kids.”

Ehlers said the mandate will run through Dec. 17, which marks the end of the district’s fall semester.

“We chose that because we wanted an end date,” he said. “We believe the public should know there is an end in site. That was important as we discussed this individually. The second piece to that is at that time, it looks like all kids – kindergarten through high school – might have the opportunity to be vaccinated. We’re looking at the big picture.”

Coloma schools surveyed parents a couple times over the pandemic and found they placed a high importance on kids learning in person.

About two weeks ago, Ehlers said they held a student hearing to get their thoughts on the potential mandate as well.

Ehlers said they haven’t gotten that many emails or complaints on the mask mandate.

“I’ve gotten some emails for it, some emails against it, and some emails with questions,” he said. “I’ve stayed off Facebook for a reason, but overall we believe the parents want to do what’s best for the kids to keep them in school. A lot of the emails I’ve gotten have been from people not from Coloma.”

Ehlers said he’s also been concerned about some of the misinformation that’s been spread online about school funding being tied to masks.

“There’s a belief that there’s federal money tied to putting kids in masks – and that is completely false,” he said Tuesday. “We had questions about it at the board meeting a couple weeks ago. We didn’t get any extra dollars from masking kids up.”

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