KIRKWOOD, Mo. — The Kirkwood School District announced it would require masks at all schools in the district when students return to classes.
"We must ensure we are monitoring and responding to the most current information available to keep our students, staff and their families safe while maximizing in-person learning," district superintendent David Ulrich said in a message to students and parents. "Throughout the pandemic, we have remained committed to taking a deliberative, data-driven approach to our decision-making around COVID protocols."
The message said rising cases and hospitalizations were part of the decision. The final factor, the message said, was the limited availability of testing in the region.
The board of education has previously voted to adopt a mask recommended environment. It would have allowed middle and high school students to no longer be required to wear masks starting Dec. 22. and for K-5 students beginning Jan. 18.
The full message is as follows:
Due to updated CDC guidance, rising cases in our region, and increasing pediatric hospitalizations, we will be requiring masks in all Kirkwood schools starting with the return from winter break.
We know this is a change to what our teachers, staff, students and families were expecting. At the same time, we must ensure we are monitoring and responding to the most current information available to keep our students, staff and their families safe while maximizing in-person learning. Throughout the pandemic, we have remained committed to taking a deliberative, data-driven approach to our decision-making around COVID protocols.
Since the most recent Safe Return to School Plan plan was presented and approved by the KSD Board of Education on Dec. 13, the CDC released updated guidance that redefines the definition of fully vaccinated. Students or staff who were vaccinated more than six months ago and have not received a booster would need to quarantine or isolate if they are a close contact of a positive COVID case. As a booster is not yet available for 12-15 year olds, we have a significant portion of our student population that does not have access to the most effective protection from infection and serious illness. Without requiring masks in our schools, more students could be excluded from class due to exposure and we would not be honoring our commitment to maximizing in-person learning.
In addition, positive cases and hospitalizations have risen significantly in the St. Louis area. Included in this increase is a record number of pediatric cases. In St. Louis County, the number of daily new cases per 100,000 residents is at an all-time high.
The final factor that influenced this update is the limited availability of testing in our region. This makes it difficult to ensure our students and staff can be tested in a timely manner. This is a primary tool in reducing the risk of transmission in our schools. If it has the potential to be less available, we want to ensure we are using the other layers of effective mitigation methods.
If you are eligible and have not received your booster, please speak with your healthcare provider about obtaining one. You can find locations administering vaccines and boosters at revivestl.com/get-your-vaccine
We will continue to review new information on a daily basis and will communicate any changes to our protocols. We appreciate your understanding as we work to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff and families.
David Ulrich, Ed.D.