JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)
Jefferson City Public Schools made the announcement Monday that the district will require students and staff to wear masks when social distancing isn't possible as the school year is set to begin in one week on Aug. 23.
Effective Tuesday, this approach was recommended by the Cole County Health Department and aligns with the other schools in Cole County.
The district said students and staff members should bring a mask to school every day. Masks should be worn upon entering the school building, within common areas, during passing periods in the hallways, and during small group activities.
Any time a distance of three feet cannot be maintained between students, or between staff and students in the classroom, masks will be required including on all school buses.
For example, when students are in the classroom seated three feet apart or if students are seated at a table or desk when plexiglass is present as a barrier, masks can be removed.
The district previously released its return to school plan in early August but chose to hold off on a final decision on masks due to rising COVID-19 cases.
In the plan, JC Schools outlined the importance of social distancing, hand-washing, staying home when sick, and the importance of wearing a mask and getting vaccinated. It states in most cases, individuals who are wearing a mask properly or vaccinated will not be required to quarantine if they come in contact with a positive case and are asymptomatic.
As an added layer of protection, the district has developed a rubric for tracing all positive cases that occur within the school environment. The rubric includes three levels: green, yellow and red.
"If the number of positive cases within the school environment exceeds the designated percentage allowable within a school community, then an individual building may be moved to a level with additional mitigation protocols for a minimum of 10 days," according to the district plan.
This could also apply to an individual classroom, grade level, school category, or the entire district.
Kristi Campbell with the Cole County Health Department said, "We have met with all the school districts in Cole County for months. Together we developed a guidance framework for this year that involves different levels of strategies that they can move through depending on what is going on with COVID in the community and in their school buildings."
Campbell said ultimately the level the district starts at and what strategies they put into place regarding masks is the local school board's decision.
According to the Missouri Public Health COVID-19 Dashboard, the state has averaged nearly 2,000 new daily confirmed cases within the past seven days.
Cole county added 85 new COVID-19 cases today bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 9,981.
Mayor Carrie Tergin is encouraging people to continue maintaining a safe distance and follow all precautions not just in schools, but everywhere in the community as cases rise.
Recently, Columbia Public Schools also decided to require masks for students for the upcoming school year. The CPS measure took effect Monday.