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Saint Charles County, MO

Fort Zumwalt Superintendent Issues Statement Regarding Masks for Students

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Missy Crystal
Missy Crystal

Mask requirements for the 2021-2022 school year are still up in the air
Will masks still be required for students next year?Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

As the current school year draws to an end, many parents are wondering: What will in-person learning look like next year? Numerous parents from the St. Peters and O'Fallon area have reached out to Dr. Bernard J. DuBray, superintendent of the Fort Zumwalt School District, with questions. Some parents are curious about social distancing guidelines or sports and extracurriculars, while a large number want to know whether Fort Zumwalt is planning to lift face mask requirements.

On May 4, 2021, Dr. DuBray issued a statement in response to the emails and phone calls he's received from local parents:

"Recently several parents have reached out regarding the requirement for our students and staff to wear masks each day in school. This requirement has been in place for our in-person students since we began the school year Aug. 31. It has been an important part of our success in providing in-person instruction, uninterrupted, ever since. Together, our Board of Education, community and staff have provided something for our children many others have not had.

With no change in guidance from the CDC, the state or the St. Charles County Department of Public Health, and with only 18 more days of school, we will continue with our protocols as we have all year. The measures put in place by our administrators and implemented by our teachers and staff have kept the spread of COVID-19 to less than 2 percent in our schools, even when the positivity rate in our community was higher than 30 percent. In addition, any change in our requirements for wearing masks makes it impossible for us to utilize the modified quarantine rules put in place by the Governor, DESE and county health. Without the regular use of masks, a full 14-day quarantine would be required by anyone exposed to the virus. Currently, if a person is exposed to the virus at school, but masks are being worn, the exposed person can leave home only for the purpose of attending school. It is important for our students to complete the academic work they began in August. It is only fair that we do all we can to allow them to take part in marking the end of this most memorable school year, from field days to graduation ceremonies.

It is my greatest hope that our community and our country continue on the course to eliminating, or at least effectively containing, COVID-19. Then we can begin next school year in a safe, welcoming learning environment where those who choose to wear masks are comfortable and those who don’t are safe. As always, thank you for your support of our schools and our students."

Dr. DuBray's statement neither confirms nor denies the removal of mask mandates for the 2021-2022 school year. Instead, he states that he hopes the nation and community continue taking precautionary measures against COVID-19 so that students can start a new school year where masks are optional.

Local parents had drastically different reactions to DuBray's statement about masks. Multiple parents stated that COVID-19 cases are rapidly declining with just a couple dozen new cases per day in St. Charles County. Others pointed out that St. Charles County has a high vaccination rate, and nearly 275,000 residents have received COVID-19 shots.

There were also arguments advocating for kids' mental health and physical health. Many parents in the Fort Zumwalt district are concerned that kids may become depressed or anxious if mask use continues. There are also fears that masks can create problems for kids with special needs or students with asthma, reactive airway disease, or allergies.

Some parents did not object to Dr. DuBray's plan for masks. They stated that they are happy to have their kids wear masks for as long as necessary. Several voiced concerns that lifting the mask mandate could make COVID spread through the community.

News Break will continue following COVID-19 trends in St. Charles County over the next few months, including issues such as mask mandates and the impact of pandemic life on students.

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