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Requiring masks? St. Louis area schools share what's to come this fall

5 On Your Side reached out to school districts to get an idea of what parents and students can expect this fall

ST. LOUIS — All students should wear masks in school this fall. That's the latest guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The top pediatrics group said even if your child is fully vaccinated, they should wear a mask to class.

RELATED: All students should wear masks in school this fall, top pediatrics group says

Dr. Rachel Charney, a pediatric emergency medicine physician with Cardinal Glennon, recommends if your child is unvaccinated, they should wear a mask whenever indoors with anyone else. 

"If your child is vaccinated, you need to look at your own individual family and look at what the rules at the school are. But choosing to mask is always an option," Dr. Charney explained.

5 On Your Side reached out to school districts to get an idea of what parents and students can expect come this fall.

Note: This list was assembled before the CDC announcement that all students, teachers, staff, and school visitors should wear masks indoors again, regardless of vaccination status. It was also before changing mask mandates in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis Monday.

ARCHDIOCESE OF ST. LOUIS:

Beginning this upcoming academic year, the wearing of masks in Archdiocesan schools will be optional and at the discretion of each individual family.

ALTON COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT 11: 

It's still finishing its planning and meeting with their board of education to finalize since the CDC and IDPH guidance was just updated. A draft plan is expected by the end of July and will then open for feedback from staff members, parents and the public. After the comment period, the district will finalize the plan, which will be subject to change based on local and regional COVID-19 metrics.

BELLEVILLE PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT #118: 

The school district is still finalizing its plan and they are collaborating with their local health department.

COLLINSVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT

Per the Illinois State Board of Education, the district said it may require staff and students to wear masks as a layered mitigation strategy during the school day or for part of the day. It is expected that a child will carry a mask with them during the school day.

EAST ST. LOUIS SCHOOL DISTRICT 189:

A spokesperson says their executive team will meet to talk about this and more on Tuesday.

EDWARDSVILLE COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT 7:

Over the next two weeks, District #7 will be working with a group of stakeholders and a panel of medical experts to develop a plan that will both layer the various strategies shown to limit the spread of COVID-19, as well as be responsive to the data regarding community and school spread. 

They have tentatively scheduled a BOE meeting for Wednesday, August 4 to present the plan to the Board of Education.

FERGUSON-FLORISSANT SCHOOL DISTRICT:

For now, a spokesperson says they are still working out a plan and will have a better idea at the start of August. 

Ferguson-Florissant School District was the first in St. Louis County to announce that they were are going to shift virtual learning when the pandemic hit.

FESTUS R-VI SCHOOL DISTRICT:

At Festus, they are hopeful to begin the new school year with facial coverings optional. 

The district will be sending a survey to our important stakeholders, parents and staff, on their thoughts this week.

Kevin Pope, Communications Coordinator Festus R-6 School District, explains it's not a final decision yet. 

"We were lucky that we were able to have students in school, five days a week last school year. The number one priority is to keep our students safe. One is is the importance of input from the parents and we also have a little bit of data from our summer school when masks were optional," he adds. 

3,150 students are in the district and half of them were in summer school. 

"During summer school, we had only for students who were positive with COVID. We feel pretty good about the mitigation protocols that we have in place," Pope says. 

If it goes masks optional, there's a back-up plan.

"We would have some kind of pre-determined plan, if the positivity number of positive students and staff were to reach a certain level, then we would most likely revert to mass be mandatory again like they were last year," Pope adds.

FORT ZUMWALT SCHOOL DISTRICT:

On June 22, it shared its primary objective for the 2021-2022 school year is to resume normal school operations.

It's goal is to have students and staff prepare to return for the 2021-2022 school year in a “masks optional” environment where those who choose to wear masks are comfortable and those who don’t are safe.

FOX C-6:

A spokesperson says they are still deciding what to do and adds, "Just before summer school started, the Fox C-6 Board of Education voted to make masks optional for summer school unless a school surpassed a 2% positivity rate (at which time masks would be required). Making masks required for the fall would require additional action by the Board of Education."

FRANCIS HOWELL SCHOOL DISTRICT:

The board voted Thursday to start the school year as masks optional, but will continue to monitor the local impacts of COVID and its variants to be prepared to reinstate masks if the situation calls for it.

HANCOCK PLACE SCHOOL DISTRICT:

The district is also determining what works best. 

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Carl explains, "Districts will be approaching masking differently. Most in STL County are waiting until the first week of August to begin notifying families. Waiting provides us more time and data as most schools won’t begin until the week of August 23."

HAZELWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT:

The school district will continue its mandatory mask mandatory for all students and employees, regardless of vaccination status.

Hazelwood will not offer hybrid or virtual school options and encouraged families to return to face-to-face learning. The district said those wanting to continue virtual school can use the state-run Missouri Course Access Program (MOCAP).

LINCOLN COUNTY R-III SCHOOL DISTRICT:

A spokeswoman says: "As throughout the entire pandemic, the situation continues to evolve and the Lincoln County R-III School District’s partnership with local and state health agencies is ongoing as they monitor COVID in our area. At a Board of Education meeting in May, the decision was made to move forward with masks for summer school and make them optional in the fall. At this time, District administration is working to prepare for the upcoming school year, including a review of all safety protocols. Should any changes be made to previous practices regarding COVID, all stakeholders will be notified following the Board of Education meeting in early August."

LINDBERGH SCHOOL DISTRICT:

A spokesperson tells 5 On Your Side they have no yet determined what the masks policies will be this fall. 

MAPLEWOOD RICHMOND HEIGHTS SCHOOL DISTRICT:

A spokesperson says, "We don't have a firm decision yet on mask requirements for MRH students and staff for the approaching year. Discussion is ongoing. We do know that use of masks was an effective component of our "layers of protection" strategy during the last school year. 

Last week, our top administrators met with the regional superintendents' group and the Regional COVID Task Force to discuss a coordinated approach to reentry in August. And this morning, the MRH admin team -- district-wide and building-by-building -- held a lengthy and informative video conference with Dr. Jason Newland to solicit his advice on masking and other protective measures i.e. physical barriers and distancing in schools. Present in the meeting were our new superintendent, the assistant superintendent, director of student services, assessment coordinator, Special School District liaison and director of business services.

As you know, infection numbers in our area are not stable, so we will be cautious about making any masking pronouncements without the very latest guidance from local, state and federal health experts."

PARKWAY SCHOOL DISTRICT:

They also have not made a decision about masks for the upcoming school year. They'll decide in late July or early August.

RIVERVIEW GARDENS SCHOOL DISTRICT:

The 2021-2022 Tentative Return to School Plan for Riverview Gardens School District stipulates that, “Face Coverings must be worn indoors at all times, by fully vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.” This guideline applies to students, staff and visitors.

The plan is tentative, and subject to change, as RGSD awaits additional guidance from the CDC, Missouri health officials and the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

The final recommendation of the RGSD Return to School Plan is expected to be presented to the Special Administrative Board at the August 10 meeting.

ROCKWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT:

They have not made any decisions yet regarding back to school and masking.

ST. LOUIS PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Masks are required and social distancing, regardless of vaccination status.

WENTZVILLE R-IV SCHOOL DISTRICT:

Masks will be optional for staff and students in the Wentzville School District regardless of vaccination status. BOE voted to approve mask optional policy on July 13.