St. Louis County Enacts New Mask Mandate, Pattonville Updates COVID Procedures


Matthew Jacobi

As the St. Louis County mask mandate took effect, Pattonville postponed their mask-optional plan. Masks are required in all district buildings for the time being.

Editors Note: “St. Louis County Enacts New Mask Mandate, Pattonville Updates COVID Procedures” by Matthew Jacobi won first place in the Citywide Coverage category at the 2022 OSIE Awards in the United States Organization of Students Editors. Click here to view the award.

At the St. Louis County Council meeting on January 4, the council voted to put in place a new mask mandate for St. Louis County, 4-3, split along party lines.

The new county-wide mask mandate went into effect Wednesday, January 5, at 8:30 am and requires everyone five years and older to wear a face-covering indoors and on public transportation.

While it isn’t required, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health also recommends wearing masks in indoor private settings and crowded outdoor settings where there is close contact with other people who may not be fully vaccinated.

But what does this mean for Pattonville High School students?

With rising cases in the building, the district’s decision to go mask optional has been delayed, and students are beginning to worry about having to go back to virtual learning. And now, questions have arisen about whether the St. Louis County’s mandate or the board’s decision will take precedent.

Superintendent Dr. Pecoraro wants to assure students and parents that virtual learning will be the last resort.

I know this is a stressful time for everyone and our goal remains on keeping our schools open and students learning in-person.

— Dr. Tim Pecoraro, Superintendent

“At this point, there is not a magic number that will determine if we transition to distance learning,” he said. “Our ability to adequately staff our classrooms at each individual school is the primary factor. So far, we’re able to do that and we’re going to do everything we can to continue doing that.”

Dr. Pecoraro also discussed what the county mask mandate means for Pattonville.

“Currently, it’s my belief that as long as there’s a county mask mandate that includes schools, Pattonville’s students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear masks,” he said. “If the county rescinds the order or a court rules it does not apply to schools, then the board approved plan is in effect.”

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against St. Louis County for “passing an illegal mask mandate.” However, a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge refused to block the county from enforcing the mandate.

Attorney General Schmitt also filed lawsuits against 45 school districts in Missouri, including Pattonville, for enforcing mask mandates and quarantine orders, following the cease and desist letters he sent out to more than 50 schools in December.

Junior Owen Sandheinrich was confused when Schmitt started suing schools.

“I did not understand what his motive was,” Sandheinrich said.

“With two parents that both work in education, I learned that the money from the schools [was] going to be cut from teacher salaries,” he said. “I feel that also the masks were helpful in ensuring that we wouldn’t have to go back to virtual learning.”

Sandheinrich thinks that Schmitt acted this way “out of greed and for his own personal growth.”

“I don’t believe that he should have sued the schools,” Sandheinrich added. “I believe it was an act to appeal to more rural parts of Missouri [where] COVID cases were lower. He did this because these towns were most of the people who voted for him and he wanted to be re-elected back into office. I don’t think that his actions were justifiable.”

With the new mask mandate and the updated guidance from the CDC, Pattonville announced changes to its COVID-19 procedures on Thursday.

Positive Cases
  • Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, are required to stay home for at least five days.
  • After five days, the individual may return to school wearing a mask if the individual has no symptoms or the symptoms are resolving, including being fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication, no runny nose and an unproductive cough.
  • The individual must wear a mask consistently and correctly for five additional days after leaving at-home isolation.
  • The Department of Public Health recommends that individuals get a COVID-19 antigen test on day five if possible to confirm that they are not highly infectious.
Virtual School
  • Pattonville’s focus remains on keeping schools open and students learning. With the current surge of COVID-19 cases in our county and region, keeping individual schools operating will depend on our ability to adequately staff our classrooms and support roles when individuals become sick.
  • Closing a school and transitioning to distance learning will be the last resort.
Vaccine Interest
  • In order to gain an understanding of how many Pattonville students have received a COVID-19 vaccine, Pattonville is asking parents to voluntarily provide their child’s vaccination status. Providing this information is voluntary, but is greatly appreciated.
  • Parents can go to Powerschool to complete this. The survey is under the Forms icon on the left-hand side and is called COVID-19 Vaccine Status.

For more information on COVID-19 resources, including where to get tested or receive a vaccine or to view Pattonville’s COVID-19 dashboard, you can visit Pattonville’s COVID-19 Information Hub.

As of January 7, Pattonville High School’s positivity rate is 6.21% with 8 staff and 125 students positive for COVID-19.