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ARNOLD, Mo. – A big change is coming quickly to Jefferson County’s largest school district regarding its controversial COVID mask mandate.

The Fox C-6 School District superintendent Dr. Paul Fregeau sent out a message to families Wednesday night saying that masks will no longer be required inside district buildings starting Friday. Instead, they will be recommended based on a COVID benchmark in Jefferson County.

The school board had initially decided that masks would only be recommended to start the school year, but then shortly before the school year started, the board changed to a mask mandate. That was due to data from the Jefferson County Health Department showing COVID cases in the red zone or the most severe level.

The Fox C-6 school board approved a plan at that point to require masks only if Jefferson County was in the two most severe COVID levels, red or orange. Wednesday, the Jefferson County Health Department announced that although the county is overall still in the COVID red zone, the county’s positivity rate had dropped below red and orange levels into the yellow zone. That led to the change in masking rules.

Fregeau said based on federal guidelines masks will still be required on school buses.

Although COVID numbers are dropping overall in Jefferson County, the latest numbers show 82 new youth cases in the last week. That is the first time that number has been in double digits since mid-July.