County school districts to consider mask mandates at upcoming board meetings

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 11/18/20

Maries County school administrators are waiting for monthly board meetings to discuss how to move forward with an optional change to COVID-19 guidelines that could reduce first and second contact …

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County school districts to consider mask mandates at upcoming board meetings

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Maries County school administrators are waiting for monthly board meetings to discuss how to move forward with an optional change to COVID-19 guidelines that could reduce first and second contact quarantines in exchange for mask mandates.

Gov. Mike Parson and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) released on Nov. 12 the optional modifications to Missouri’s K-12 school reopening and operating guidance. The release noted that “a large number of students and school staff members quarantined in recent weeks has presented a significant strain for educators, school leaders, and Missouri families alike.”

Under the updated guidance, proper mask-wearing may now prevent individuals from being identified as close contacts in K-12 schools that have implemented a mask mandate. This means that if both individuals at school — the person diagnosed with COVID-19 and the person exposed to the positive case —have masks on and are wearing them correctly, the individual exposed does not need to quarantine.

Maries R-2 Superintendent Dr. Lenice Basham said Friday the board would discuss it at the Nov. 24 board meeting.

“We would have to have a mask mandate, a plan, and consequences for not following the plan — in place,” Basham said. “Three health departments would have to approve our plan.”

While the Maries R-2 School District has been able to keep their COVID-19 quarantines and positive cases low, a Friday case left the entire girls’ freshman and junior varsity basketball teams quarantined.

“The girls’ basketball and freshman basketball teams practice together,” Basham explained. “Three positive cases and both teams were quarantined — a total of 30 who were close contacts to the positive cases were quarantined.”

Maries R-1 Superintendent Mark Parker said he would like to try to implement the new modifications announced by the governor, if possible. Parker explained the modifications allowing close contacts to continue attending school, as long as both persons involved in a positive case were wearing masks, and the person who has the virus would be isolated.

Parker said he would like to do this at R-1 if possible because it will allow students to remain in school instead of possibly being quarantined. He said they are looking at the change in close contact protocol to see if it’s something the school can do.

In order to adopt the modifications, it will require communication with the health department and also approval from the school board in order to begin a mask mandate at the R-1 campus.

Maries R-1 was closed for two weeks in an effort to help get the numbers down. Parker reported the reopening of school is going well. The school district has had a couple of students with positive cases but nothing huge.

Additional reporting by Laura Schiermeier.

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