R-II drops mask mandate, implements 'test to stay' policy

Derrick Forsythe, Correspondent
Posted 11/26/21

Students in all grades across the Wright City R-II School District will no longer be required to wear masks starting next week.

School board members voted during their monthly meeting on Nov. 18 …

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R-II drops mask mandate, implements 'test to stay' policy

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Students in all grades across the Wright City R-II School District will no longer be required to wear masks starting next week.

School board members voted during their monthly meeting on Nov. 18 to lift the mask mandate that was in place for second through eighth grade, effective Nov. 29. They also voted to implement the test to stay program, giving students who have been in close contact with a COVID case the option to stay if they meet a set of criteria.

“We’re taking this approach, at least for right now, based on the fact that positivity rates have been a lot better in Warren County,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger. “There’s a mitigation strategy taken away without the masks, but parents have an option for mitigation strategies across the board now in vaccines for all school-aged children.”

Much of the board’s deliberation centered around the timing of lifting the mandate, given that the COVID-19 vaccination has only been an option for elementary age children for a short period.

“There was great discussion on when we should make that move,” said Berger. “We had board members voice concern, given that not all parents have had the opportunity to have both rounds of vaccination for their kids yet. Ultimately, we decided to move forward.”

The mask mandate had previously been lifted at the high school in response to the vaccine being available, and was never implemented at the kindergarten and first grade levels. Berger said lifting the mandate didn’t seem to adversely affect positive cases at the high school, but the district did see an increase in quarantines.

“Certainly our full quarantines went up when we dropped the masks at the high school,” said Berger. “We could see it clearly wasn’t about transmission. It’s just on the quarantine guidelines that if both parties aren’t wearing a mask then both would have to quarantine.”

Now with the test to stay program in place, students who have been in contact with a positive COVID-19 case while at school will have the option of staying in school, as long as they adhere to two main criteria and remain symptom free during a 14-day period. The student could attend school and participate in extracurricular activities as long as they wear a mask “consistently and correctly” for the full duration of the 14 days and receive at least three rapid antigen tests during the first seven days following exposure. The first test would be administered immediately upon identification as a close contact and the following two within the initial seven days of the quarantine period.

Since the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, R-II has had 85 positive cases among students, with 45 of those being in the high school. Over the past two weeks there have been 12 total cases. As of Monday, there was just one active case throughout the entire district.

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