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Wasatch Back Senator's Bill Would Give School Agencies The Ability To Call The Shots On Masks

Utah Department of Health

Summit and Wasatch Counties Republican Sen. Ron Winterton is sponsoring a bill that would give school districts the ability to decide if face coverings are necessary.

Winterton said the basis for the bill started last summer. 

“I represent seven school districts - three of which - they went out and bought those shields for their teachers and students to wear,” he said. “That came back and that was approved, only to find out in August, they said we're not gonna allow that...everybody wears masks. This bill just says that the School District would have the final say in how they administer health issues, and not let the state health department dictate statewide.”

He said schools districts will work with other elected officials and the health department to determine if masks should be required. 

Instead of an entire statewide mandate for schools, Winterton said it should be decided on a local level. 

“Daggett county is part of this district, they went for almost seven months before they had their first case,” he said. “And yet being held to the standards that we set here in the state, everybody wears masks, it was hard for them to justify why they were doing that. And so I'm not trying to take that away from anybody. But I want the conversations to go on. Let's have educated discussions and not a dictatorship of what happens.”

However if the bill passes, it wouldn’t take effect until after this school year is over. 

“Let's say that this does pass, it would not be effective until May 1 at the earliest date,” he said. “So have I caused some heartburn? We're not going to change what's going on this school year at all. So the reality of this is changing our lives today? No, it would be going into next year.”

During a COVID-19 briefing last Thursday, Gov. Spencer Cox said there could be vaccine ability for every Utahn adult by May. 

Lorie Pearce with the Park City School District said in an email that the district will continue to adhere to both Summit County Health Department mandates and the Utah State Department of Health school manual.  Summit County was one of the first areas in the state with a mask mandate. 

The bill will head to its first Senate committee meeting Thursday afternoon.


Jessica joins KPCW as a general assignment reporter and Sunday Weekend Edition host. A Florida native, she graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in English — concentrating in film studies — and journalism. Before moving to Utah, she spent time in Atlanta, GA.
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