Rockwood initiates face mask mandate as COVID delta variant surges in Missouri

Board moves meetings to high school auditoriums as community members show up in large numbers to voice opinions

Similar+to+the+2020-2021+school+year%2C+students+and+staff+will+still+be+required+to+wear+masks+following+Interim+Superintendent+Tim+Rickers+mask+mandate+announcement+on+Aug.+4.

Emma Tran

Similar to the 2020-2021 school year, students and staff will still be required to wear masks following Interim Superintendent Tim Ricker’s mask mandate announcement on Aug. 4.

Juli Mejia, Asst. Editor-in-Chief

The first day of school Aug. 23 may bring some uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. However, while all Rockwood buildings will require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks indoors, Principal Karen Calcaterra said students should expect the rest of school to feel like it was pre-pandemic. 

“The easiest way of thinking about it is pretty much everything is back to normal with the exception of having to wear masks,” Calcaterra said. 

Per the advice of local health officials, masks will not be required outdoors or during sports activities. Teachers may also allow students to take off their masks if they are outside for a lesson. 

During lunch, students will continue to have assigned seats, five to a table. This will allow the administration to contact trace any unmasked, close contact with positive COVID-19 cases.

“When you’re eating you don’t have a mask on, and if you don’t have a mask on and you don’t have a vaccine, you would have to be quarantined,” Calcaterra said.

For the remainder of the school day, students who wear masks properly over their mouth and nose will not need to worry about being quarantined if they have close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID if they also wore a mask. Unvaccinated students are at a higher risk for being quarantined, especially at lunch or if they do not wear their masks properly.

If a student does test positive, other students who had any other contact with the individual will still be contacted and notified to watch for possible symptoms.  

Junior Celeste Viñas said she was disappointed about having to return to school with masks after receiving a COVID vaccine.

“I have mixed feelings because I want everyone to be safe, but I got vaccinated, like many others, to avoid this. I thought it would’ve been a better idea for non-vaccinated students to still have to wear a mask to encourage vaccinations and try to get life back to normal,” Viñas said. 

With respect to regulations regarding vaccinations, the Rockwood School District (RSD) encourages students and staff to get vaccinated, as a means of lowering the risk of spreading COVID-19. RSD is also advising parents to notify the district of their student’s vaccination status. 

According to the RSD website, “[RSD] will be in touch in the coming weeks with instructions as to how you can notify us that your child has been vaccinated.”

Notifying the school of a student’s vaccination status is a “strictly voluntary” effort to save time when contact tracing and allow the district to measure vaccination rates within the district. 

Community members have been vocal about the mask mandate since it was announced on Aug. 4.

At the Aug. 11  Board of Education meeting held at Marquette High School, patrons spoke for nearly two and a half hours with opinions expressed on both sides of the mask mandate. District residents are each allowed to speak for no more than three minutes. Outside the meeting large groups gathered in the parking lot with signs to gather support for their side.

Feedback continued on Aug. 19 at Marquette High School, when 14 patrons again spoke to board members. This time, the comments were primarily in opposition to the mandate.

Claude and Molly Welcome, who have two children in elementary school came to speak against the mandate. They said they believe the masks are doing more harm to children overall. 

When you have a mask on, you are breathing in air from the sides and the top, and when you breathe your air out, it goes out from the top and from the sides,” Molly said. “So no, I don’t believe that masks do anything.”

Claude sees it the same way, also saying it is common sense that masks don’t work properly. 

“It’s like putting up a chain link fence to keep out mosquitoes,” he said.

While some people have held very strong opinions against the mask mandate, others like sophomore Ollie Harris believe wearing masks could be the fastest way to get back to normal.

“I personally do not have a problem with wearing masks in school. They are a bit annoying since I wear glasses, but since it helps protect people who have yet to get the vaccine, I’m more than happy to wear a mask to school,” Harris said. 

Since the beginning of freshman year, Harris has undergone a different kind of high school experience as the pandemic obligated students to take classes over zoom and wear masks, but some optimism remains.

“I can’t wait to have an actual year of high school since my freshman year was weird due to COVID,” Harris said. 

With a similar sentiment, Calcaterra is enthusiastic and ready for the upcoming school year to feel more like pre-pandemic life.  

“We are going to be patient, and we are going to just be ready for the day that we don’t have to wear a mask, and hopefully that’ll be sooner than later,” Calcaterra said.