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ST. LOUIS–Just days after returning to class from the winter recess under a mask-optional policy, the Francis Howell School District’s Board of Education voted unanimous 7-0 vote Friday in an emergency session to reinstate the mask requirement starting Monday January 10.

School districts across the area have scaled back masking requirements and other COVID mitigation following a Cole County judge’s ruling on such mandates and pressure from Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

Francis Howell went mask optional prior to the winter break.

In going through the district’s COVID statistics, Superintendent Dr. Nathan Hoven told board members “there is a significant amount of COVID in the community.”

 The district will temporarily require masks through January 21, with a chance to review where things stand at a regularly scheduled meeting January 20.

This week, hospital leaders in the region have been sounding the alarm daily on how the variant has had a crushing impact on the region, with the St. Louis Pandemic Task Force reporting a record number of hospitalized children ages 0-18 on Friday with 74 patients.

In addition to reinstating the mask mandate, the district is also limiting visitors to schools without barring them outright and postponing events that would bring large groups of people to school. Masks will be “highly encouraged” but not required for after-school events, including sporting events.