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Box Elder Asks Governor To Relax Mask Mandate For Rural Schools

PARK VALLEY, Utah – While some districts grapple with coronavirus outbreaks, the Box Elder School District has asked the governor to relax a mask mandate at three rural schools.

Parents across the county have been pressuring the Box Elder School District to get the exemption for schools that have a much smaller population. Most of the people at the schools are related anyway.

At Park Valley School, Melissa Jones helps with some of the younger elementary kids. She is an aide, a secretary and a grandmother.

Melissa Jones is a secretary, teacher aide and grandmother at Park Valley School. (KSL TV)

“I have four grandkids here,” she said. “Two of them are in this classroom that I get to work with everyday.”

Some of the classes only have two students. 

Just across the hall, Melissa Morris is both teacher, and principal to all three of Box Elder County’s rural public schools.

Melissa Morris is a teacher and principal at all three of Box Elder County rural public schools. (KSL TV)

“Grouse Creek has three students. There’s a brother and a sister, as well as the teacher who’s teaching out there, (and) her son,” Morris said.

These schools are different than most in Utah, officials said. 

“They work on the same ranches and farms,” Morris said. “They’re going to church together, as well as events like the state fair, so they’re spending a lot of time outside of school already together.”

It’s why the superintendent was willing to consider the push from a small percentage of the parents to have the option to choose whether students need to wear a mask at all times.

Freshman Shaylee Rose is willing to wear a mask so she can continue going to school with friends. (KSL TV)

“Everyone in the school knows each other by their first names, and a lot of us are related,” said high school freshman Shaylee Rose. “Sometimes I don’t like the masks, but I’d rather have the masks and be in school, than be at home.”

Teachers also said they are more than willing to wear the masks. 

“My husband has non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer,” Jones said. “I want to do everything I can to prevent my husband from getting (coronavirus).”

Ribbons show support for a student who is at home fighting Leukemia. (KSL TV)

Everyone at the school has been working to keep the community safe, because one of the students is at home fighting leukemia.

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Park Valley, but the district does have a handful of cases.

Superintendent Steven Carlsen sent a letter to Governor Herbert a few weeks ago asking for flexibility on mask requirements.

He has not yet heard back.

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