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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. — A new mask mandate went into effect Thursday for the largest school district in Jefferson County.

Paul Fregeau, the superintendent of the Fox C-6 School District, said all 17 schools are enforcing the policy — and it’s been a smooth transition.

“I didn’t get any calls about non-compliance, so I think things went well,” said Fregeau. “I usually find out if we’re having issues, and I didn’t get notified today.”

On Tuesday, the school board voted 5-2 to reenact the mask mandate because of the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the omicron variant. Under the requirement, all students, staff, and visitors must wear a mask while inside district buildings. The mandate is expected to expire on Jan. 21.

“We already had nine buildings go to a mask requirement due to the positivity rate in the buildings, and so we were just trying to mitigate the spread of the virus in all our buildings to keep more kids in school,” said Fregeau.

Fox C-6 started the school year with a mask mandate but relaxed it in November.

The new mandate drew support from some parents and concern from others.

“I think it’s one of those things where we just need to go with the flow on this,” said parent Rita Vogt. “If it helps the kids then it’s going to help especially helping the kids stay in school.”

Another parent, Robert Gourley, said: “My concern is just having the mask on all day, you know. I don’t know what problems that bring not being able to breathe properly.”

Dr. Fregeau said area superintendents last week met with some infectious disease doctors who said they expect the spread of omicron to peak in a couple of weeks. On Jan. 21, the district will switch to strongly recommending masks unless a school surpasses a 2% COVID positivity rate for students and staff.

In those cases, masks must be worn for 14 days at the impacted school, and Dr. Fregeau said he will continue to watch the case counts and make decisions that help keep students as safe as possible.