Are Salt Lake City schools enforcing mayor's mask mandate?

First grader Kash Zechman chats with Salt Lake City School District Superintendent Timothy Gadson III while Gadson tours Nibley Park School in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A week into the school year — are schools in the Salt Lake City School District enforcing the mask mandate?

Some parents are concerned about a letter the district wrote to principals before school started, which states they should not discipline a student if they're not wearing a mask.

District officials said it's a matter of keeping children in school and not shaming them.

"We want all of our students to come to school with a mask. The reason we want this is because that helps us keep our schools open," said district spokesperson Jason Olsen.

Olsen said the district is doing the best it can navigating a mask order issued by Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall for 30 days.

If a student refuses to wear a mask, district policy encourages principals to talk to students about the mayor's emergency order, and let them know if they change their mind, there are masks available.

"We don't want to humiliate students. We don't want to point them out and embarrass them," said Olsen.

But some parents feel uneasy about what they see as a "lack of enforcement."

"What I'm hearing from a handful of people mostly on social media," said Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City. Dailey-Provost said parents she talked to are frustrated with how some schools are handling it.

At West High School, where her two teens attend, she said students are complying. "They both wear masks. They've been in masks since school started on Tuesday and they said that 100% of kids at their school wear masks," she said.

Olsen said the feedback they're getting from schools so far is that almost 100% of their students are wearing masks.

"There are some students whether it's lunch or walking in the hall that has their mask down on their chin, a gentle reminder for those students to put their mask back up."

Mayor Mendenhall issued the following statement to KSL-TV:

"We've been in close contact with the school district and I'm happy to hear that we're seeing an overwhelming amount of compliance for wearing life-saving masks. The goal with this requirement is to keep our children healthy during in-person learning at school. With this level of compliance I am hopeful we'll continue to see our city's schools stay open, and our children safe as they learn in-person."

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