MESA COUNTY, Colo. — In an interview with KREX 5 Tuesday, School District 51 Superintendent Diana Sirko said 4th through 12th-grade students must wear masks in the fall to slow the spread of COVID-19. This requirement is active until further notice. Sirko also says elementary school classes, grades K-5, can be held at normal capacity with no six feet social distancing precautions required, according to state guidelines.

KREX 5 has also learned D51 plans to keep all students in cohorts whenever possible, meaning the same group of students will stay in the same classroom to minimize amount of students in the halls during passing periods. Additionally, the district is working on ways to make class sizes smaller at the middle and high school level.

“We know that masks will be an important part,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko. “To try to keep them on K-3 is kind of a hard decision.”

Sirko said the district came to this decision after input from community members and reinforced by Governor Jared Polis’ statewide mask mandate.

A local D51 parent who has two elementary students at Mesa View and one at New Emerson says, getting back to as normal of a school year as possible is crucial.

“For my kids I’m not really concerned about them going into a classroom with their fellow classmates,” said D51 parent Maegan Ranay. “If you try to implement some of those social guidelines or some of the other things that isolate children I think it’s going to end up messing with them psychologically.”

A parent of a Grand Junction High School Student as well as a D51 middle school student says that masks and too many precautions could be detrimental to her kids overall learning experience.

“I worry about them not getting physical activity at school,” said Lisa Petty. “I worry about the change they’re going to see, not about their health.”

Petty is also firmly against masks requirements in schools.

“I think it’s incredibly unreasonable to ask that children wear masks all day long,” she said. “I don’t worry about them contracting COVID or interacting with other kids.”

Dr. Sirko says she’s hearing constant feedback from parents on both sides of the mask debate.

“Some people are saying if you don’t require masks, we aren’t sending our children, others are saying if you do require masks we aren’t sending our children,” Sirko said “So those are variables that are difficult to anticipate at this time.”

The school district will hold a special school board meeting on July 28 where it will reveal its plan for the fall semester in greater detail.