RSD Responds to CDC Lifting Mask Mandate

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Media by Emmie Foley

Sophomores Aubrey Bast, Marrisa Hale and Emma Hasler work in their English 10 class while wearing masks, which is an RSD enforced rule. Recently, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) announced those fully vaccinated could go without masks except where laws and regulations still require masks.

RSD has decided to continue their mask mandate through the end of the year, but has yet to decide for after school ends Thursday, June 3.

Head of Health Services Amy Wehr said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and St. Louis County Department of Public Health still recommends universal masking in schools.

“We know it’s been working for RSD and it’s only a few more days, so we are staying the course [of keeping masks on] for the remainder of this school year,” Wehr said.

The CDC announced those fully vaccinated are permitted to continue daily activities without wearing a mask, except for where laws and regulations set say otherwise.

Principal Dr. Steve Hankins said right now there is no simple way to monitor who has and hasn’t gotten fully vaccinated. He said because vaccinations are becoming open to those of younger age just recently there is no guarantee everyone at MHS has received both doses of the vaccine. 

“With only a few weeks left, we don’t want to spend time figuring out a system of to wear or not wear based on vaccination received,” Dr. Hankins said. “We don’t want to police students around the end of the school year and rather focus more energy on milestones such as Graduation.”

Students are fed up and tired of keeping masks on and I feel the same way but keeping the school safe for the remainder of the school year is my priority.”

— Dr. Hankins

Dr. Hankins said he encountered students walking into school without masks and argued they were fully vaccinated. He said he explained to them that he understood their frustration but guidelines were still in place to keep masks on.

“Students are fed up and tired of keeping masks on and I feel the same way but keeping the school safe for the remainder of the school year is my priority,” Dr. Hankins said.

In regards to wearing masks at school-run activities this summer, Wehr said there will be no definite answer until June 4 but the topic is in discussion currently.

Dr. Hankins said he predicts that indoor activities will require masks while outdoor activities may be more lenient with mask-wearing. 

“Most summer events from school tend to take place outside, so there is a good chance that masks won’t have to be worn but we will know more specifics soon,” Dr. Hankins said.

As for next year, Wehr said regulations for masks will depend on the number of cases in the area and the recommendations of the national, state and local public health authorities. 

Dr. Hankins said the hope is to remove the mask mandate sometime next year, but it’s not fixed when that will be. He said if and when masks aren’t required, this will apply to the whole school no matter if the person is vaccinated or not and the option of keeping masks will still be open to those with concerns. 

St. Louis County will ultimately decide the plan for masks that RSD will follow next school year because the state of Missouri has left these decisions up to the counties, Dr. Hankins said.

“CDC only provided recommendations to the county but the county makes guidelines and St. Louis County tends to be more conservative when it comes to masks,” Dr. Hankins said. 

Jessica Unruh, nurse, said no masks is a possibility next year if more students get vaccinated.

The vaccine, which was made through the collaboration of the whole world, gives me hope for no masks next school year.”

— Jessica Unruh, nurse

Right now, Unruh said she only knows of fewer than 100 MHS students who are fully vaccinated. There may be more but they haven’t informed the school so she hopes in the future that more parents will let her know, Unruh said.

“We do not require students to inform us whether or not they have been vaccinated since this vaccine isn’t FDA approved and is only optional,” Dr. Hankins said.

Unruh said, as a medical professional, she recommends students get vaccinated as soon as possible for next school year to return to normal. The vaccine may be a fairly new medication but the protein it entails has been researched for years so those feeling skeptical should look into the makeup of the vaccine, she said.

“The vaccine, which was made through the collaboration of the whole world, gives me hope for no masks next school year,” Unruh said.

Unruh said it is a bit sudden to remove masks completely for the remainder of this year.

“To walk into an establishment fully vaccinated and not wear a mask seems odd as if I am doing something wrong since I’m so used to covering my mouth and nose for over a year,” Unruh said.

Xander Kerber, junior, agrees.

“The decision from the CDC to eliminate masks and distance for fully vaccinated people is exciting, though it came out of nowhere,” Kerber said. 

Kerber is fully vaccinated but prefers to stay on the safe side and said it’s fair for the school to ask him to keep his mask on. He said although masks aren’t ideal to wear all day, he doesn’t mind if they have to stay on next school year. 

“It would be terrible if we got so close to the finish line just to change our policies too soon and cause a problem or god forbid get someone really sick,” Kerber said. 

Kerber said he is happy to see news of COVID-19 regulation being lifted and said the school will make a suitable decision for mask wearing next year.

“I’ll always err on the side of caution as I in no way want to experience what I’ve experienced over the last year again, but I’m excited to finally be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kerber said.

Adam Sansom, science teacher, said it’s hard for him to agree or disagree with keeping masks on for the rest of the school year.

Sansom said he doesn’t know the reasoning behind and wasn’t informed of the rationale of why RSD is requiring masks to be worn through the remaining few weeks.

“I would be more than happy to continue wearing a mask this year to help out those that may benefit from this,” Sansom said.

As the information available stands now, Sansom said he hopes that masks will not be required for next year.

Dr. Hankins said bringing the school environment back to normal is his biggest goal for next year. He said he understands it’s odd to wear masks and a bit comical due to the fact that masks were against the dress code pre-COVID-19.

This year has been challenging for everyone, but I can’t wait to be the principal of a building without a pandemic present,” Dr. Hankins said.