BEAR RIVER MIDDLE SCHOOL – By Cari Doutre – May 28, 2021
Publisher’s note: “The following article is in no way, shape or form The Valley Headliner’s attempt to promote, endorse or take any side of the controversial mask mandate debate. It is also not our purpose to create controversy for Bear River Middle School or anyone involved in this today’s event, by publishing this article. A full disclaimer from The Valley Headliner can be found below.” – Cari Doutre, Publisher, The Valley Headliner at BRVNEWS.com
It wasn’t a sign of protest. It wasn’t a political stance either.
Instead, it was just a way for students, teachers and others at Bear River Middle School to celebrate the end of a school year filled with uncertainty and challenges and how they endured it all together until the end.
During the last 20 minutes of the school day on Friday, May 28, at Bear River Middle School, students, teachers and staff members were given the option to toss their face masks into a fire.
It was a way to celebrate the end of a difficult school year for everyone and to celebrate the end of an era – mask mandated requirements for Utah schools.
“We are not burning the mask in protest but as a celebration of the human spirit and our ability to adapt, endure and conquer coming out at the end,” said Eldon Petersen, Principal at Bear River Middle School.
Under the supervision of teachers and staff at Bear River Middle School, several fire pits were set up outside for those who wanted to toss their masks into the flames. Participation was not mandatory, and some students opted not to throw their mask into the fire and to continue wearing one - a personal decision they are allowed to make.
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This was not a personal gesture or statement from Petersen either. After 25 years as an educator, the last 11 of those as Principal at Bear River Middle School, Petersen is retiring at the end of the school year.
“The students have really been awesome for the most part this year. This just sounded like some gesture to mark the end of an era, not my retirement, but the end of the mask wearing protocol,” Petersen said.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox announced on May 13, that the end of the statewide K-12 school mask mandate will end for the last week of the 2020-21 year, whenever that will be according to each school district’s schedule. Cox added that school districts still have the power to require masks at schools.
“We believe that this is the right thing to do. The prudent thing to do,” Cox said during the May 13, briefing. He also encouraged Utahns to do what they need to do to remain comfortable and feel safe.
On May 18, the Box Elder School Board of Education voted to end all mask requirements the last week of the 2020-21 school, June 1-4. Individuals can choose to continue wearing a mask or face covering.
Not all school districts in Utah opted to lift mask requirements for schools within their district. The Salt Lake School District is requiring masks or face coverings to be worn throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year which ends June 7.
Photos by Cari Doutre/BRVNEWS.com