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Francis Howell schools to vote on mask mandate as attorney general lawsuit looms

The district's mask mandate ends Friday, unless board members vote to extend it.

ST CHARLES, Mo. — Thousands of students and parents in the Francis Howell School District are waiting to see if masks will be required or not next week in schools. 

Since last Monday, students and staff in Francis Howell schools have had to wear masks. The temporary policy expires Friday, Jan. 21. The school board is meeting Thursday evening to decide what the next steps are. 

The Francis Howell School Board voted in a unanimous decision to go mask-optional in December. But, earlier this month, decided to reverse that decision and require masks because of a spike in COVID-19 cases. 

The board also advised limiting visitors and postponing large gatherings. 

The cases reported during the first week of January alone made up 49% of the total cases reported during the school year so far.

On Thursday, the school board will go over the most recent COVID-19 numbers to decide whether there should be a change in the current mask mandate. 

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

Francis Howell officials said they’ll also take a look at the numbers for absences across the district and each school’s spread when the board votes Thursday.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has released another statement directed toward school 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.