South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Mehlville Board of Education affirms masking resolution, discusses metrics to make masks optional


The Mehlville Board of Education unanimously voted last week to continue to require universal masking for all students, staff, teachers and visitors regardless of vaccination status while in district buildings. 

At the Nov. 16 meeting, the board voted to continue to uphold the resolution requiring universal masking, which it first passed in August. 

The board has been voting to uphold the masking resolution every 21 days because of a new state law that limits public health orders. House Bill 271 prohibits local officials from issuing public health orders or restrictions that close schools, businesses or places of worship beyond 30 days during a state or emergency. Orders can only be extended by a majority vote of a local governing body. If the state is not in a state of emergency, orders can only last for 21 days. Missouri’s state of emergency ended at the end of August. 

At a previous meeting in September, the board outlined the metrics it would require to make masking mandatory. Masks could be made optional for grades seventh through 12th when Centers for Disease Control metrics for moderate community transmission are met for three consecutive days. Moderate transmission is defined at 10 to 49 cases per 100,000. 

The introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 has changed the metrics for masking in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Previously, to make masking optional in those grade levels, low transmission had to be met for three consecutive days, which is nine cases per 100,000. 

However, with the vaccine now available across a wider age range, some board members questioned if metrics for pre-k through sixth grade should be adjusted. 

 “Our 5 to 11-year olds became eligible last week basically and they’ll get their second shot …. So, do we want to discuss what we will do moving forward with our new group of vaccinated kids,” Board Director Peggy Hassler said. 

Director Patrick McKelvey suggested waiting until the December board meeting to discuss amending the masking resolution. McKelvey said that by the December meeting, the first group of 5 to 11-year-olds who got vaccinated as soon as they were eligible will be fully vaccinated. 

“I think we’re going to have several options in the next six to eight weeks,” Board Director Jean Pretto said. “I think we’re starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

St. Louis County is averaging 181 new cases a day, as of Nov. 19, which puts it in the Centers for Disease Control “high transmission” category. The testing positivity rate is 7.5 percent, which is considered moderate.  

“One of our big things is keeping kids in school. That’s really our big thing this year is keeping kids in school and a large part of the reason why we have the masking policy we do,” Board president Kevin Schartner said. “I also think we need to look at the next step … cases can be stalling while hospitalizations are contast or going down, or deaths are constant and going down and that’s just the reality.” 

Director Larry Felton said that the decisions made in December would need to be passed on the data at the time, and suggested a committee to review all the data related to the masking resolution, like vaccination rates, postitvity rates and case counts, prior to the next meeting. 

“Based upon where the vaccinations are now versus where they’re going to be in December, I would adopt this as written,” said Felton. “What we’ll do with this in December will be predicated on a little more data.” 

The board will meet Dec. 16.

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