Cherry Creek School District pivots on masks after Tri-County Health issues stronger warning


Chris Smith

On Monday, August 9, when the Cherry Creek School District (CCSD) board of education held its regular meeting at 14603 E. Fremont Avenue in Centennial, its policy was that “all students and staff are strongly encouraged to wear a face mask in school,” according to Superintendent Chris Smith, to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta Variant of COVID-19. He explained, “From the beginning, we have had a strong collaboration with Tri-County Health Department (TCHD). We have consistently followed the guidance and instructions of our health experts. We continue to have overlapping prevention strategies…that include promoting vaccinations…We will continue to (host vaccination clinics) for our students 12 and over, as well as for their families.” 

Noting that CCSD will provide the same service for younger students as soon as they are approved for vaccinations, Smith reminded everyone, “We know from our public health experts that the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated.” He pointed to the fact that, unlike last year, there was no current public health order “from the governor or CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) requiring the wearing of a mask or face covering, although it is “strongly encouraged,” adding, “If or when the health experts at TCHD, CDPHE, or the governor conclude that the data shows that a mask requirement is necessary and they direct us to require masks, we will follow their guidance.” As of this writing, that is still the information on the home page of the CCSD website. 

School at CCSD began Monday, August 16. On Friday, August 13, at 3:01 p.m., a message from Smith was sent to parents and posted separately online that announced the revised policy that, “Cherry Creek School District will require masks inside school buildings for all students PreK- 6 and the staff who work with this age group.” Smith pointed to a letter issued that day by Dr. John Douglas, executive director of TCHD, that said, “It is not safe for students younger than 12 years old to attend school without a mask,” because, “Transmission of COVID-19, exacerbated by the more transmissible Delta Variant, is highly likely in the school setting without high levels of mask wearing.” As was the case four days earlier, there was no public health order from the governor or CDPHE requiring masks in indoor settings including schools. The decision to pivot was made by CCSD based on the recommendation from TCHD.