ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. — It’s not something you see often: a gathering of people holding signs, cheering from passing cars, and raising awareness for pro-mask policies, but that’s exactly what happened outside of St. Charles County’s Health Department Friday afternoon.
“I think also among the, you know, pro-mask community, there's a bit of hesitancy around speaking out,” said Nancy Zoellner, a mom of two in the Francis Howell school district. “This is important to us and important to our children. And we're here to represent.”
About two dozen different people stopped in throughout the afternoon, but they say they represent an online community of more than 700 St Charles County parents, where most schools are going mask optional.
St. Charles City schools will continue requiring it, Francis Howell just announced they'd require masks for kids under 6th grade who are too young to be vaccinated.
“It wasn't quite a large enough step. They're still not requiring a universal mass mandate for pre-K through 12, which we think is very important,” said Angie Quigley, a Francis Howell parent who organized the event. “We have yet to have filled in terms of answers from the district about how it is exactly that they're planning on implementing safety protocols for our young children that are in their school buildings in regards to social distancing, cohosting, quarantine, etc. So we're just asking for more information and also urging the public health department to speak up and to be the voice of public health to our district officials.”
The health department said they’re there to support schools, but ultimately, decisions are up to districts.
“The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has clearly stated that policies regarding masks and schools should be handled by the discretion of the local Board of education,” said Sara Evers, acting director of St. Charles County Department of Health. “We are doing what's best for St Charles County and following the guidance of the state and part of that recommendation is this layering strategy, so that includes masking, that includes social distancing, supporting and encouraging vaccinations, looking at ventilation and cleaning strategies and contact tracing testing strategies. All of those are part of the guidance and we will continue to provide support to the boards of education, as they make these decisions.”