ST. LOUIS – As back-to-school time nears, many school districts are starting to decide if they will require masks in the classroom or if they will be optional. Francis Howell School District’s Board of Education voted Thursday night to start the school year as mask optional for all students and staff.
Wentzville School District‘s Board of Education approved the superintendent’s plan to make masks optional in the classroom for the upcoming school year.
“We are comfortable planting a flag so to speak in the ground in that fact that we are going to return five days a week,” Wentzville School District Superintendent Curtis Cain said during Tuesday’s board meeting.
“We are going to be returning with optional mask wearing for the 21-22 school year.”
Many districts’ mask plans are still up in the air. For example, Parkway, Rockwood, Warren Co. R-III, Granite City, Collinsville, Affton, St. Charles City school districts have not announced their mask plans for the upcoming school year.
On the other hand, University City School District announced its plans to keep the mask requirement for the classroom. Education Plus, or EDPlus, is a non-profit organization that collaborates with St. Louis area school districts to support learning.
The organization’s CEO Paul Ziegler said throughout the pandemic, they have had a working group with local superintendents, pediatricians and health departments to develop best practices in the classroom amid COVID-19.
“Ultimately all of our schools’ goal is to have kids in person as much as possible and to have that continuity of a solid teacher in front of a class of students,” he said.
Ziegler said most districts work with a plan to announce plans for masks in the classroom the first week of August. He said the most recent COVID trends in the St. Louis area are not promising.
“We still have a lot of transmission in the community and as things change, we need to be able to adapt, and if we adapt, we will hopefully create very little disruption for students,” he said.
Ziegler said many schools look at the following factors when making a decision regarding masks:
- CDC Guidance
- County Health Department guidelines/mandates
- Transmission rates in local communities
- Mitigation efforts, including if schools have space for social distancing
“Even after we make some decisions about what are we going to do with masks, social distancing, different mitigating practices, those could have to change if we see spikes or surges in our community,” he said.