“Anytime I’ve asked a student to pull their mask up, I’ve been told ‘no.'” -Anonymous Student 1
“I don’t feel safe in a place where even the teachers don’t feel like they can wear a mask correctly, to protect their students.” -Anonymous Student 2
“It’s not socially acceptable to tell someone to pull their mask up- so how can we be promised that we will be safe at school? We trusted the district that we would be coming to a school that took safety seriously.” -Anonymous Student 3
Consistent and correct use of a mask is one of the five key practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19; alongside social distancing, avoiding crowds/poorly-ventilated places, washing hands regularly, and consistent disinfection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Masks are primarily intended to reduce the emission of virus-laden droplets (“source control”), which is especially relevant for asymptomatic or presymptomatic infected wearers who feel well and may be unaware of their infectiousness to others, and who are estimated to account for more than 50% of transmissions.” Essentially, masks not only protect the wearer, but they mainly protect those around them. (More evidence on how masks prevent the spread of COVID-19)
In the first official comprehensive COVID-19 plan released by the Wentzville School District, “Roadmap to Reopening”, it was stated: “Students are required to wear a face-covering when social distancing is not feasible.” So not only is mask-wearing the entire day specifically omitted from this statement, but this vague wording leaves room for a lot of “interpretation” of what a “face covering” entails. The Wentzville School District has made it clear that effective precautions against COVID-19 are an important factor in our ability to stay at Level 1: In-Person Learning. But the nuances in the district’s implementation of COVID-19 precautions tell a different story.
Does a face shield suffice? Can gaiters be considered a proper facial covering? Does the mask have to cover the nose? None of these questions seem to be answered in the district’s roadmap.
Even leaving the loose wording aside, where the district is sorely lacking, is in the implementation and enforcement of these regulations. And due to the omission of explicit mask-enforcement methods, there is no written statement on how to hold staff, students, or administrators for incorrect mask-wearing. There are no staff members designated to enforce correct mask-wearing practices, there are no consequences, there is no reason for people to wear proper masks other than their own conscience or scientific understanding.
In a FAQ released by the CDC for school operation during the pandemic, it was stated that “While fewer children than adults have COVID-19 in the US, the number of school-aged children with COVID-19 has been increasing. Children and adolescents can be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, can get sick with COVID-19 and can spread the virus to others… Resuming and maintaining in-person learning may pose risks to children, teachers, school administrators, and other staff in the school environment, and their families and household members. Among adults, older age and having underlying medical conditions increases the risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”
The first time that the Wentzville School District released any type of official statement regarding acceptable types of masks was when they adopted the “Modified Quarantine” regulations as directed by Missouri Governor Mike Parson and St. Charles County. In this statement, as long as students adhere to the provided mask guidelines, they are eligible for modified quarantine. Modified quarantine is when students who could have been exposed to the virus are able to come to school, but not participate in any after-school or external activities. But during the time that the student under modified quarantine is on the bus, in the classroom, in the lunchroom, and doing other things on school grounds, they are still susceptible to spreading the virus to their peers.
The real question arises when asking about, once again, the implementation of these mask regulations. It is stated that the masks worn by the two parties in contact must have two-layers and must cover both the mouth and the nose. But there is no proof or counter-measures in place to ensure that the students who are receiving modified quarantine instead of the traditional quarantine, are even eligible for it.