(Media by Mason Kellerman (he/him))

Media by Mason Kellerman (he/him)

Ed Board: Schools Should Be Mask-Optional

December 25, 2021

The debate over schools continuing a mask mandate has once again become a controversial issue with the filing of a lawsuit by the Missouri Attorney General. The lawsuit claims that mask mandates infringe upon civil liberties and should not be left up to the discretion of individual districts.

Though this contrasts directly with the governor’s statement that individual districts have discretion over such matters, it has given the mask debate new wind, causing for more serious change to take place. 

A small group of students at Eureka High School protested the St. Louis County mask mandate on Thursday, Dec. 9. The “mask off” protest was met with mixed reactions and follows a pattern of students around the STL area protesting masks. 

That same day,  St. Louis County removed its mask mandate. Districts around the St. Louis Area therefore began discussion about the continuation of their mask mandates. Districts like the Mehlville School District were quick to announce that they will move to a mask-recommended policy for all grades on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. 

Following these events, RSD released a similar proposed update to their Rockwood Safe Together plan. The proposed plan would instate a mask-recommended policy, one in which masks are not regulated nor required. 

This plan was voted on at the Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Thursday, Dec. 16, however, the results of this vote were not yet available at the time of publication. 

Due to the current climate in the district regarding masks, a mask-recommended policy, is in fact, the best course of action for RSD. It allows for students and staff to decide if they want to wear a mask and eliminates a great deal of the political tension surrounding masks. 

In an ideal world, all RSD students and staff would remain masked, especially due to the omicron variant. But this simply can no longer be the case as vaccination rates continue to grow, case numbers continue to drop and tensions rise surrounding the issue. 

We strongly advise to as many people as possible to continue wearing masks, even in a mask-recommended setting.

It is still possible to contract COVID when vaccinated and wearing a mask provides additional safety. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), masks reduce transmission up to 50-70 percent, and with new variants, it is best to continue wearing masks. 

The CDC also continues to recommend correct and consistent mask usage indoors, and that would directly apply to schools.

This mask-recommended plan paired with proper contact-tracing protocol would ensure safety for students and staff while also allowing them to make their own decision regarding mask use.

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