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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – At the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, Parkway School District was headed into virtual-only learning.

Fast forward a year later, students will be back at school five days a week when the school year starts again Aug. 23, but students will be required to wear a mask when inside school buildings until further notice.

The decision comes after a surge in COVID cases in the St. Louis region. Masks are optional for students when they are outside.

The latest mask decision from Parkway was the final straw for some parents.

“We have been out all summer unmasked, at concerts, at the movies, at ball games with thousands of people!” a Parkway parent said.

“We are looking at pulling our kids on Monday after we tour a private school here in St. Louis County.”

Other parents that Fox 2/KPLR 11 talked to said they understood the district’s decision.

“I support Parkway’s decision to require masks, I would love to see the kids not have to wear masks at school, but first and foremost I want them to be in school in their class, full-time,” Laura Hewgley, a parent in the Parkway School District, said. 

 “If this is what we need to do right now to get to a better place, it just makes sense,” Stacey Burian, a parent in the Parkway School District, said. 

 “I am very disappointed that Parkway is not letting us be the parent choice for our children,” Joanna Fiehler, a parent in the Parkway School District, said.

“We choose to live in this district for the reason that Parkway is an excellent school, and it’s disappointing that parents feel the need to switch schools, and go to private schools to get the proper education and proper treatment for their children.”

Another parent said in a statement they were taking their child out of the district, but their decision was not based on the latest mandate.

“This decision is not about masks or no masks. We’ve chosen to take our children out of the Parkway school system, in part, due to Parkway’s decision to stay closed for more than half of the 2020-21 school year and also due to Parkway’s heavy-handed quarantine policies.  

“These policies were never in the best interest of students. Study after study demonstrates that in-person learning is one of the most critical factors for a student’s educational, social, and emotional development.  

“Parkway leadership demonstrated last year that they cannot be trusted to honor that basic truth and make decisions that are best for students.  

“We are sending our children to a private school that maintained in-person instruction for all of last year and that is equally committed to in-person learning for this year.”

As of June 22, here are enrollment numbers from the Parkway School District:

  • Fall 2019 – 17,525
  • Fall 2020 – 17,137
  • Fall 2021 (So far) – 17,090 

The district said numbers typically increase as the first day of school approaches. School districts report their official enrollment numbers to the state toward the end of September.