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CPS students protested in favor of mask mandate

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Prior to Columbia Public Schools announcing that there will be a mask mandate back into place starting January 18th and ending on February 4th, a group of Columbia Public Schools high school students protested Thursday due to the lack of a mask mandate and pushed for the requirement to be reinstated as coronavirus cases continue to break records.

Once it was noted a mask mandate was put back into place, Hickman High School students and protests organizer put out a statement saying, "but we went to stress, CPS needs to maintain a mask mandate until we see COVID cases decline considerably. Just two weeks will do little the one run to limit the spread of COVID inner schools. We say this not just to the CPS School Board but also to the Missouri State School Board and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a mask mandate will save lives. We are very happy to see masks back in our CPS schools next week, but we will continue working until we receive a permanent mask mandate."

Students returned from winter break last week after the Columbia Board of Education voted for the mask mandate to end on Jan. 4. The board voted to repeal the mandate in December under legal pressure from the state. The omicron coronavirus variant has since caused case levels to explode, leading some students and parents to petition for the mandate's reinstatement.

Groups of students were walking out of classes at noon every day and planned to add an extra 5 minutes to each day they walk out until the mask mandate was put into place again, student organizers say. Dozens walked out at Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools on Thursday.

Flyers and social media posts have been making the rounds regarding the student-organized protest.

One flyer states that "we need a safe environment to learn and we will fight until the administration listens to us."

CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said earlier this week that administrators are aware of the posts and flyers and "it has been addressed with the student" who distributed them.

The district reported 348 and 105 staff members out with COVID-19 on Thursday. Meanwhile, Boone County is seeing a record number of active cases and Missouri's COVID-19 hospitalizations remain at near-record levels.

Similar student protests are happening in cities including New York, Michigan, Boston and Oakland.

Erika McGuire

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