BALLWIN, Mo. — Two more St. Louis-area school districts voted to end their mask mandates Thursday night as COVID cases continue to surge in the region.
The Rockwood and Lindbergh school districts will switch to mask optional policies in January, allowing families to decide whether their children will wear face coverings to school.
Rockwood unanimously voted to go mask optional. Officials are calling their policy “mask recommended.” Rockwood plans to make the switch on January 18. The original proposal had the change happening on January 3 but that was amended Thursday night. The meeting was held at Crestview Middle School in Ellisville. There was a lengthy public comment period as more than 45 parents and others signed up to make their feelings known.
Students and teachers spoke passionately about the mask-optional plan.
“It’s not your role to tell students what they should do with their physical and mental health,” a second-grader said.
Mary White, an orchestra instructor at Eureka High School, voiced her concerns about ending the mask mandate.
“We must protect our people,” she said. “The changes proposed in the new plan are at best reckless and at worst deadly.”
Several parents also spoke about the policy. The room was seemingly split.
“My view is that the existing covid policies have served the district well,” said one parent.
Rockwood district leaders started talking about easing COVID rules back in October, but there was no change until now.
Lindbergh’s new policy will take effect on January 5.
The Post-Dispatch reported that the Francis Howell School District board also voted Thursday night to go mask optional soon.
Just this week, the Hazelwood School District decided to keep its mask rules in place, and the Parkway School District voted to go mask-optional. Another school district that will be going mask-optional is the Mehlville School District.
This as the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force reported there were 518 COVID patients in task force hospitals Thursday. On November 16, there were 250 COVID patients in hospitals. That is an increase of 107%. One month ago there were 58 COVID patients in ICUs. Thursday’s data showed 130 patients are in ICUs. That is a jump of 124%. On November 16, there were 32 COVID patients on ventilators. There are now 76 COVID patients on ventilators. That is an increase of 137%. The task force reported 12 more COVID deaths Thursday. That is the most in a single day since the third week of September.