North Idaho College puts mask mandate in place ahead of classes starting on Monday

SPOKANE, Wash. – The border between Washington and Idaho divides two very different approaches to handling COVID-19 during the pandemic. The mandates in Washington are crystal clear: put the mask back on in public places. That’s not the case in Idaho–with the exception of one school.

Students at North Idaho College found out on Thursday they’ll be required to wear a mask in class starting Monday, despite the fact that most of the state isn’t enforcing these kinds of mandates. With the Delta variant spreading so quickly and cases on the rise, this was a decision the directors of North Idaho College had to make.

“I’m going to be on the golf team. So I don’t want it to get shut down where I can’t golf this year,” said Navy Wood, who as an athlete.

She already paid the price for the COVID-19. For her, wearing masks are well-worth it.

“I like it. Keeps us all safe,” Wood explained.

Of course, not everyone feels the same. The father of one freshman student said, “I just don’t see the risk. This is the lowest risk population there is. These young kids. I feel like freedoms are continually being stripped.”

Vice President of Student Services Graydon Stanley says this was a group choice.

“A lot of people understand this is uh we have an obligation to provide a safe and secure campus, a place for people to provide classes face-to-face, by wearing a mask we’re able to provide that, “Stanley explained.

School leaders say they recognize most people don’t want to wear a mask but they feel this is the best decision for everyone.

They’ve kept a close eye on the case rates and as the numbers went up, they felt something they had a responsibility to take action.

“It made really good sense for us to think seriously about what do we do with school starting on Monday to address that?! A mask mandate seemed to be the right thing to do,” Stanley said.

Regardless of vaccination status, students will be required to mask back up. North Idaho College is encouraging staff and students alike to get the vaccination, starting with an on-campus vaccination clinic next week. It will be open to everyone. They are also committed to educating everyone as the most reliable and accurate information becomes available to them.

Either way, Stanley is optimistic heading into a new academic year, now that the vaccine is available. “The start of every school year is a renewal. It’s a renewal for us.”

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