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Mask mandate lifted at Salem school building

SALEM — A temporary mask mandate put in place two weeks ago at the Salem Junior/Senior High School will be lifted effective Monday, returning the choice of masking back to students and staff.

“Our numbers look great,” Salem Schools Superintendent Sean Kirkland said Friday.

According to Kirkland, only 12 students in the entire school district remain quarantined and for positive COVID-19 cases, there’s only one in the junior high and one at Buckeye, with zero at the high school, and Southeast and Reilly elementary schools.

For staff, there’s only one positive case at the junior high and zero anywhere else, with no staff under quarantine.

Two weeks ago, the numbers of students affected were much higher, with 15 positive cases of COVID-19 at the junior high and high school. As a result, Kirkland made the decision to force a mask wearing mandate at the junior/senior high school building.

The move apparently had the desired effect, with numbers down across the board.

“We’re not seeing any building spread,” he said.

In talking about mandatory masking, Kirkland had previously made it clear that any mask mandate would be temporary and that he would only institute one if he saw evidence of COVID-19 spreading in a school building, which is what happened in this case.

His hope was for mandatory masks at the junior/senior high school to only last two weeks and that’s what happened. He said they had nobody quarantined because “when everybody has masks on, we don’t have to quarantine anybody” related to an exposure to someone who tested positive.

Of the dozen students quarantined now in the district (four each at the high school, Southeast and Buckeye), he said contact tracing has shown the exposures took place at home not at school.

“We’re going to pull back and see where we’re at,” he said.

If numbers go back up, they’ll review the situation, but he said numbers are going down everywhere.

During the mask mandate, wearing a mask remained a choice at Buckeye, Reilly and Southeast Elementary schools.

Both sides of the mask debate have spoken at recent board meetings, some saying masks should be mandatory for all school buildings, while others say students and parents should have a choice.

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