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Parkway School District to vote on mask policy

The school board’s decision will determine whether students and staff will continue wearing masks next week.

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — Should masks still be required in school? Or is it time to make them optional?

That’s the debate the Parkway School District is having during Thursday night’s special board meeting.

On Dec. 17, the Parkway school board decided unanimously that students and staff needed to be wearing their masks until Jan. 17, with the board re-evaluating the policy in January. That second evaluation of the COVID mitigation policy is happening during Thursday’s meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m.

The board’s decision will determine whether students and staff will continue wearing masks next week.

A recent spike in cases has made the decision more complicated.

The adjustments to the district's COVID policy the board will review and vote on are, firstly, that masks continue to be required until Feb. 18. The board said that date is subject to change depending on each school’s numbers and what the district’s community COVID numbers look like.

Another proposal calls for the board to meet again to go over the latest COVID data on Jan. 19 and Feb. 16.

RELATED: List: St. Louis area schools changing policies due to COVID surge

The policy also clarifies that the district will continue to update COVID numbers for each school on its dashboard so parents can have an idea of how each school is doing.

Under the district’s previous COVID policies, if more than 2% of the student population tests positive for COVID-19 at a given time (and a minimum of 8 students), masks would be required at that school for two weeks.

Now is a crucial time for the district to review its COVID policy.

Over the past week, Parkway schools have seen the highest number of COVID infections since the pandemic started.

Student cases have spiked in January, and the same goes for staff. Right now, 656 students and 112 staff members are actively infected with COVID.

This has created some serious staffing issues for schools. Last week, about 20% of teachers in the district were absent on one day. About half of those classrooms had to be covered by school leaders and support staff.

The Parkway superintendent said schools are starting to see some improvement this week with less staff out sick and more substitutes able to step in and help.