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Francis Howell school board votes to extend mask requirement for 2 more weeks

The district will automatically go to a mask-optional plan on Feb. 7, but leaders said they can call an emergency meeting if conditions require more changes.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — The Francis Howell school board voted to extend the district's mask requirement as case rates remain high due to the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The district's mask requirement was set to expire Friday, but the board voted Thursday night to extend it through Feb. 4, a Friday. The district will automatically go to a mask-optional plan on the following Monday, but leaders said they can call an emergency meeting if conditions require more changes.

The school board also voted to give each district employee five additional sick days.

When the district moves to a mask optional policy, any school district building that reaches a positivity rate of 3% would have to return to requiring masks.

Currently, there are 272 students and 59 staff members who actively have COVID-19.

Francis Howell is the latest school to extend a mask requirement. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said his office will be suing districts that are mandating masks and enacting quarantine orders. 

He said he plans to file a lawsuit against those schools this week, referencing a recent Cole County ruling that found “school districts have never been given the authority by the legislature to enact public health orders.” 

Schmitt said the decision to mask children in school should be decided by parents and not school officials.

Some school districts planned to revoke their mask mandates at the start of the year, but with this most recent COVID-19 surge, many school boards have decided to keep their policies requiring masks in place.

School boards argue they do have the authority to require masks to protect students' health.