Pattonville Board Votes to Go Mask Optional for Second Semester


Matthew Jacobi

On Monday, January 3, 2022, Pattonville School District will move into a mask-optional environment for all students and staff in the district. This decision was made at the December 15 Board of Education meeting, where the board voted to move the district into a mask-optional status. Currently, all schools will remain mask-optional unless a positivity rate is above 2%.

On December 15, Pattonville’s Board of Education voted to switch to a mask-optional environment starting second semester. According to the recent letter sent to parents from Superintendent Dr. Tim Pecoraro, the recent ruling about who can issue health orders by a Cole County circuit court judge created the need for area school districts to revisit their policies to determine how the decision applies to schools and how to proceed.

At the most recent board meeting, Pattonville decided to go mask-optional in the district for PreK-12 students and staff starting January 3, 2022.

However, if an individual school’s positivity rates go above 2% of the total school’s population, students and staff will be required to wear masks for two weeks. Then, as long as the positivity rates are below 2%, that school will go back to mask optional. If the positivity rate stays above 2%, masks will be required for an additional week at a time until the rate is below 2%.

This means that if approximately 40 individuals at PHS test positive for Covid, the school would go back to wearing masks for at least two weeks.

Pattonville has not only changed its masking protocol, but has updated its quarantining procedures, as well.

As far as quarantining procedures go, those who test positive for Covid will still be quarantined while those who are exposed to Covid will no longer be automatically quarantined unless they exhibit symptoms.

If students or staff exhibit symptoms of Covid, they may be sent home until they produce a negative Covid test or a physician’s diagnosis with something explaining their symptoms, other than Covid.

Students will still be required to wear masks on district transportation, including school buses.

While Pattonville is changing its guidelines, they recognize that they still have the authority to put health measures in place.

“While the ruling has put into question the authority of local health departments, our school district’s authority and obligation to prevent the spread of contagious diseases remains unchanged. Pattonville has a legal obligation to prevent the spread of contagious disease in schools, which is supported by Missouri State Statutes 167.191 and 171.011, Pattonville Board of Education Policy EBB (Communicable Diseases) and a Missouri Supreme Court ruling (State ex. Rel. O’Bannon v. Cole),” Dr. Pecoraro stated in a letter that went out to staff and families.

At the board meeting, there were two students who presented in front of the board in favor of keeping the mask mandate, and two parents who talked to the board in favor of going mask-optional.

Senior Loudin Cato, who attended the board meeting, said, “The kids that were presenting for keeping the mask mandate were concerned that if Pattonville made it mask-optional, they wouldn’t be able to keep their families safe.”

Although the CDC has provided research indicating that masks are more effective than nothing, there has been a lot of controversy around mask mandates in cities, businesses, and schools.

Pattonville’s students and staff have differing opinions on whether the school should require masks or not. While some students and teachers will continue to wear masks, others are pleased about having the option.

Junior Ben Wallace does not plan on wearing his mask next semester.

“I will not be wearing my mask because I am fully vaccinated, I am careful of who I am around outside of school, and when I am sick, I take precautions,” Wallace said.

Wallace thinks that the mask optional environment will lead to less conflict between students and teachers. While he is happy about this change, he is concerned that “unvaccinated people will take advantage of this new change.”

Mrs. Kathriner, an art teacher at PHS, has a differing opinion. “I don’t love it, but I’m fine with wearing one because I think it’s a way of keeping everyone safe,” Kathriner said.

With cases on the rise and the new Covid variant, Omicron, positivity rates could fluctuate. Be sure to pay attention to district communications for future announcements.