Rethinking the Mask Mandate


Media by Marin Ellington (she/her)

Students walk the halls, fully masked, in cooperation with the mask mandate that has been in place in RSD since the beginning of the school year. A Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021 decided that, starting Tuesday, Jan. 18, RSD would implement a mask optional policy instead.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 18, masks will be recommended rather than required in all Rockwood buildings. Those in close contact with a COVID-19 case will be sent into a 10-day quarantine.

Thursday, Dec. 16, a RSD Board of Education (BOE) meeting was held where interim superintendent Dr. Tim Ricker discussed the revised Rockwood Safe Together plan.

“It’s [the plan] about safety and security and keeping healthy students and staff,” Dr. Ricker said..

A mask mandate has been in effect in RSD since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. This decision was made with the assistance of doctors at Washington University.

Dr. Jason G. Newland, M.D., M.Ed, and his colleagues followed the number of cases and researched the spread of COVID-19 so they could offer suggestions to schools in the St. Louis area.

“As we started school this year and we saw that summer surge, we recommended that masking should be how we proceed,” Dr. Newland said.

We need to know that the masks might be needed again, and we should keep them as a backup.”

— Dr. Jason Newland

Dr. Newland said he and his colleagues continue to follow the numbers of cases and those admitted to the hospital and to discuss with the St Louis County Health Department. 

Though RSD will be moving away from a mask mandate, Dr. Newland said masks are an important tool that should not be disregarded altogether.

“We need to know that the masks might be needed again, and we should keep them as a backup,” Dr. Newland said.

Schools will be evaluated individually each day as administrators monitor the percentage of those affected by COVID-19 in the buildings. 

Mary Lapak, director of communications, said this allows the BOE to target hotspots throughout RSD schools.

Buildings have to go back into a two-week period where masks are required if their building reaches a 4 percent or more exclusion rate, and these schools are warned of their percentage when they reach a 2 percent exclusion rate.

“We are recommending everyone get vaccinated who is eligible, but it is voluntary,” Lapak said.