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CPS mask policy change goes into effect after winter break

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

On Monday night, the Columbia Board of Education voted to halt the mask mandate for the school district, but the policy won't go into effect until after the winter break.

Board members also voted to change the COVID-19 protocols to require only people who test positive for the virus to quarantine.

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Brian Yearwood recommended the removal of the indoor mask mandate.

Some residents agreed with Yearwood citing the Missouri Attorney General's recent letter to school districts and health agencies.

The letter states the organizations cannot carry out mask mandates and quarantines anymore because of a recent case ruling in the Cole County court system.

One parent at the school board meeting said he didn't think masks were healthy for his kids.

"Only 644 children, I'm sorry that they have died of COVID, but since January 1st of 2020, 644 kids in a country of 320 million have died of COVID," said the CPS parent. "I had more people in my high school graduating class than that."

Another parent who spoke at the meeting said she wanted to extend the mask mandate until February because she was concerned about the effects of upcoming holiday travel.

"There's no way for us to know who's going to see who and who's going where, who's coming back with what," said the CPS parent. "I would just like to see the masks continued until everyone's had the chance through the school district to finish their vaccination."

According to the CPS COVID-19 dashboard, the seven-day positivity rate has increased since Thanksgiving.

A month ago, the seven-day positivity rate stood at 12.3%. The most recent data from the dashboard shows the rate has nearly doubled and sits at 23.3%.

People on both sides of the face mask mandate seemed to strive for the same goal.

"I understand and I believe you all have good hearts and don't want anyone to die, you don't want anyone to get sick," said a third CPS parent speaking to the board. "I don't want my kids to get sick."

Students will still have to wear masks while on buses as that requirement is a national CDC rule for public transportation.

Previous CPS COVID-19 Return Plan Policy

CPS's previous COVID-19 Return Plan Policy requires students and staff to wear masks while indoors. Masks are also required while on school buses, according to the current CDC health order.

The school district doesn't require masks while students and staff are outside.

Pre-K, kindergarten, and elementary school students are required to stay in small groups during class to help reduce exposure to the virus.

CPS also requires quarantines and exposures for its attendees depending on the level of exposure/diagnosis of a COVID-19 case.

State AG's Letter

Last Tuesday, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent a letter to school districts and health agencies citing a recent Cole County court ruling in the case of Robinson v. Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services.

The ruling states the health regulations requiring masks along with health orders violate the equal protection clause of the state's constitution because of varying rules from county to county.

“Under this judgment, all mask mandates, quarantine orders, and other public health orders that are based on any of the invalidated regulations or issued outside the protections of the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act are null and void," said Schmitt in the letter.

The State AG's office states any school district that chooses to go against the recent ruling and continues to require the heath requirements may have action taken against them.

Schmitt's office says it will enforce the order across Missouri.

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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.

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