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Moorhead School District ditching mask mandate

The district's top health advisor recommended it, saying it comes down to the "collateral damage" the school board is willing to accept.

Students leaving school
Students leave Robert Asp Elementary School in Moorhead on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.
Ryan Longnecker / WDAY News
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MOORHEAD — The district's top health advisor said the rationale behind lifting their mask mandate is that all students are eligible for the vaccine and more rapid testing is available in school.

They can get the results in 15 to 22 minutes, depending on the test.

The first Spuds who will be allowed to take their masks off are preschoolers when they return after Christmas break.

From there, every two weeks a new group will be allowed to shed the mask, starting with:

  • High schoolers on Jan. 17
  • Middle schoolers on Jan. 31
  • Elementary students Feb. 14

Not every school board member was sold on the plan.
"Would it be prudent for us to wait to make a decision on masks until we have seen — had more time to know? said Moorhead Public School board member Kara Gloe.

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"When it comes to the masks or the vaccinations, if you want to get it you can get it, if you don't want to wear it, you don't have to wear it. (If) you want to wear a mask, you can wear a mask. It's your choice. It's your personal choice," said board member Scott Steffes.

The district's health supervisor Erika Yoney admitted it's a tough balancing act.

"How do we decide what's the collateral damage in COVID that we are willing to accept?" she asked.

In the end, the board voted 5 to 2 to make masks optional in school.

"I think we need to trust in the research she's done, trust in the fact that we've offered vaccines to as many people as we possibly can," said chairwoman Cassidy Bjorklund.

"You are sitting in my chair, what's your vote?" school board member Matt Valan asked Yoney.

"I would not present a plan that would not safely protect our kids," she replied.

The district is also dramatically changing how it handles close contacts, making it much easier for kids to stay in school based on vaccination status and more testing.

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The district says if for some reason the virus seems to be working its way back into schools, the board can makes changes to this plan.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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