Masked children as Gov. Jared Polis visits a second grade class in Aurora. (Cherry Creek School District handout)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

Colorado students, teachers, and school staff who are vaccinated won’t have to wear masks at school and won’t have to quarantine after COVID exposure, state health officials said in new guidance released for the 2021-22 school year.

Masks are recommended — but not required — for people who are not vaccinated, which currently includes all children under 12. School districts could choose to set stricter policies. The recommendation matches school guidance released earlier this month by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Masking is an especially critical strategy when a community is at higher risk of transmission,” state health officials wrote. “Schools should create an accepting environment for parents and students who choose to use masks even when they are not required.”

Some Colorado school districts have already announced they won’t require masks next year, while in others, officials said they were weighing their options and waiting for state guidance. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that everyone continue to wear masks in school settings to create more layers of protection.

Particularly significant for school operations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment no longer recommends that people who are exposed to COVID in a routine classroom setting quarantine at all — provided they weren’t engaged in a higher risk activity like singing or contact sports and that their community has high vaccination rates and low community transmission.

For much of last school year, classroom quarantines frequently disrupted in-person learning, leading some superintendents to call for the state to end the practice. In describing the shift, state public health officials said it’s important to keep children safe and healthy, but children’s well-being extends beyond the risk of COVID.


Erica Meltzer is Bureau Chief of Chalkbeat Colorado, where she also covers the legislature and statewide education issues. Erica was a founding editor of the local news site Denverite. Before that, she covered everything from housing and energy...