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The Eagle County School District announced Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, that staff, teachers, visitors and students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will be required to wear masks for at least the start of the school year.

Eagle County law enforcement were scheduled to be deployed to the county’s schools on the first day of classes Monday, the agency said, over increased tensions related to new K-12 masking guidelines.

“Our goal is the same as yours, getting our children back to school safely,” the county wrote in a news release posted to its website. “Law Enforcement is requesting that persons who are wishing to express their opinions, not interfere or interrupt the freedom of movement and the functions of the schools.”

The Eagle County School District announced Friday that staff, teachers, visitors and students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade will be required to wear masks for at least the start of the school year. The order will likely be lifted, the district said, when the county dips “below 50 cases per 100,000 for seven consecutive days.”

That will require a significant downturn from the county’s current situation. Eagle County is rated by the state as having a “very high” cumulative incidence rate, meaning it’s above 100 cases per 100,000 people over the past week.

According to Eagle County Public Health’s website, the incidence rate in the county over the past week is 208. The county has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state: According to state data, 86% of the county’s 12-and-older population has received at least one dose.

With Eagle County seeing three recent COVID-19 related fatalities and a continued uptick in the rate of disease spread and severity,” the district wrote in its release announcing the requirement, “(Eagle County School District) made the move in order to maintain five-day-a-week, in-person instruction. This should prevent the need for prolonged quarantines or transitions to remote learning because of disease spread.”

In that same release, the district asked protests be directed at other locations but not at schools themselves.

“It is imperative that schools begin on Monday without disruption or additional emotional stress on students and staff,” it wrote.

The spread of the virus in the county qualifies for new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says people should wear masks indoors in counties with high rates of transmission.

Eagle County is not the first district in the state to institute a masking requirement and face a public backlash for it.

Earlier this month, scores of parents and students protested Jefferson County Schools’ decision to require masks. Some Boulder County residents protested last week after that district implemented a similar order.

Despite growing case totals and public health experts’ concern about spread in schools, Gov. Jared Polis has stood by the state’s decision not to implement any top-down requirements for all districts in the state.

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