Lindbergh Schools will require face coverings for all students, staff, teachers and visitors regardless of vaccination status for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.
The school district joins surrounding districts like Mehlville and Hancock Place in implementing universal masking policies to start the school year, in response to high COVID-19 case rates due to the Delta variant.
At the beginning of August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised it guidance pertaining to masking for vaccinated individuals, recommending that everyone wear a mask in indoor spaces in places of high transmission regardless of vaccination status. St. Louis County is considered an area of high transmission.
At the July Board of Education workshop, the School Reopening Task Force gave a presentation about policies for the upcoming school year — namely quarantining and masks. The force is comprised of 61 parents, faculty and staff.
The task force, represented by Chief Human Resources Officer Brian McKenney and Chief Academic Officer Tara Sparks, provided district COVID data from the past year, community survey feedback information and information regarding quarantine policy.
According to McKenney, the district saw a total of 467 COVID cases, which led to the quarantining of 4,249 students. He said the large number of quarantines were a good example of a policy that worked in stopping the spread of the virus.
“The quarantine mitigation strategy kept us from ever having to close an entire building,” McKenney said. “This is a success story.”
McKenney said 72 percent of staff are fully vaccinated at this time, and the amount should go up when school starts. He also said at that time 35 percent, or 1,192 out of 3,404, of eligible students are vaccinated.
In June, the task force surveyed the community about masking and vaccinations. The survey was taken by 1,688 parents, 390 staff members and 477 students.
Results showed most parents would prefer optional masks, especially in higher grade levels where the vaccine is available. Sparks said since the survey was given in mid-June, responses may change as more data becomes available.
“Since the point of this survey we’re hearing significantly more about the Delta variant and hospitalization rates,” Sparks said. “Those are all things we take into consideration.”
Teacher and student data also showed a preference for optional masks. Middle and high school students polled at 71 and 74 percent respectively for optional masks.
During public comment at the district school board meeting the same day, sixth-grader Poppy Gardner said that requiring or not requiring masks should be based on scientific evidence.
“Demonstrate to parents and students your value by showing proof that masks actually work. … Do your research of existing information based on scientific proof and methods,” Gardner said. “I already know what you should find. Viruses are small enough to pass through masks commonly worn by the public … bacteria is large enough to be collected in the mask, so we are breathing unhealthy contaminated air.”
The district announced Aug. 4 that face coverings would be required for all students, staff, visitors and teachers in all district buildings and while on district transportation at the start of the 2021-2022 school year, which begins Aug. 23.