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There's confusion about student mask mandates in some metro-area school districts

The St. Vrain Valley School District clarified its mask rules for reopening after questions from teachers.

LONGMONT, Colo — The St. Vrain Valley School District clarified its mask rules for reopening after hearing there was confusion among teachers.

All students in the district will be required to wear masks at all times, including during class, with scheduled "mask breaks" throughout the day, according to a spokesperson for the district.

The original mask mandate posted on the district’s website stated: “Students must bring a cloth mask to school and expect to wear it as they enter and at other times. Minimize the use of masks whenever possible.”

Prior to the district clarifying its rules Wednesday night, there was concern from teachers.

“Every time that anyone has asked a question, all that keeps coming back to us is 'these are safe guidelines, as long as we are six feet apart, there will be no masks required,'” Erie High School teacher Greta von Bernuth told 9NEWS on Wednesday. “That just does not feel safe to us.”

Von Bernuth teaches English and Spanish at the district, which released its school reopening plan on June 30. 

It includes a return to full-time in-person instruction for students in pre-kindergarten through 5th grade, 6th grade and 9th grade.

The schedule also includes an alternating schedule with a combination of in-person and synchronous real-time online learning for students in 7th and 8th grades and 10th though 12th grades.

RELATED: Jeffco Schools planning for 100% in-person learning for fall with remote options

Von Bernuth said she takes care of her 80-year-old father and works with other teachers who are high risk.

She is worried social distancing among students won’t be easy to maintain and she is not comfortable with the ventilation in some of the district’s classrooms. With that in mind, she wants her students to wear masks at all times in her classroom.

“My preference would be to be online,” von Bernuth said. “But I understand that that’s not tenable, and I agree with that. There is a balance to be struck. But if we can do everything that is being suggested to make us safe then I’m willing to take that risk.”

9NEWS reached out to the St. Vrain Valley School District, and a spokesperson said its mask policy was always to have its students, pre-K through 12th grade, wear masks during class.

Superintendent Don Haddad clarified the district’s rules at a school board meeting Wednesday night: “Masks will be expected to be worn by students all the way through, pre-k through 12th. They are not going to be optional, they will be worn pre-k through 12th, and we understand that at the lower grades, this can be even more challenging, so we will build in breaks, and we will also make exceptions for students who might have an underlying health condition that would put them at risk if they have to wear a mask."

9NEWS confirmed that means students will be wearing masks throughout the duration of class at St. Vrain Valley Schools.

The district changed the wording on its website; “Students must bring a cloth mask to school daily and expect to wear it as they enter the school and at other times throughout the day.”

This kind of confusion about various policies around the state, according to the President of the Colorado Education Association, Amie Baca-Oehlert.

"If they are working with the local health department, which they should be doing, [they should] share the data and information not only with educators, but with families and parents and students so that people know how these decisions are being made and can make the best decisions for themselves and for their families," Baca-Oehlert said.

Colorado’s Department of Education (CDE) crafted reopening guidelines for districts. This is what they say about students wearing masks:

“Consider cloth face coverings or masks for students age 3 and older (Determined on a student-by-student basis. Those with trouble breathing, or those unable to remove a mask without assistance should not wear a mask.) Teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings."

"Face coverings may be challenging for students (especially younger students) to wear in all-day settings such as school. Face coverings should be worn by staff and students (particularly older students) as feasible, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult."

"Individuals should be frequently reminded not to touch the face covering and to wash their hands frequently. Information should be provided to staff, students, and students' families on proper use, removal, and washing of cloth face coverings.”

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CDE advises that districts ensure that educators and staff wear medical or non-medical cloth face coverings that cover the nose and mouth “while working, whenever possible and except where doing so would inhibit that individual’s health, including during in-person instruction.”

Here is how other districts are handling mask-wearing for students as of July 10:

  • Jefferson County: Face masks will be required unless social distancing can be maintained. Teachers can wear face shields during instruction.
  • Denver Public Schools: Face masks will required throughout the day, including during class. It will have built-in mask breaks.
  • Cherry Creek: The district will be releasing more information Friday, and it said masks will be an important part of its plan.
  • Douglas County: Information will be released soon about specifics.
  • Adams-Araphahoe 27-J: Still finalizing plans. It will most likely require masks, but how long and where students will need to wear them is unclear.
  • RELATED: CDC Director Redfield sticking to school-opening guides Trump criticized

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