R-IV School Board Discussed School Mask Mandate

At the regular School Board meeting on December 14 in Willow Springs, Superintendent of Schools Bill Hall and the board members revisited the idea of a schoolwide mask mandate for the first time since August. Responding to recent statewide recommendations that universal masking among students can prevent quarantines for students who are positive for COVID-19, the discussion was on the agenda.
Hall began the discussion with an overview of the district’s numbers. At the time of the meeting, there were twenty students quarantined. Twelve of those students were scheduled to return to school on December 15. Since the start of school, fifty students and thirty-nine staff members have tested positive. 
“The numbers are as good as they have been all year,” Hall said. “Howell County is reporting spiking cases, but we are not seeing it in the school district.”
Hall pointed out that the state recommendations to stay in school by wearing a mask does not apply to after school activities. A mask mandate won’t help to prevent athletes from missing games due to quarantines.
Hall did not recommend a mask mandate and invited the School Board members to give their opinions on the topic. 
Vice-president Mac Gum spoke first. He said he was in favor of a mask mandate if the numbers support it. 
“The most important thing is keeping kids in school,” Gum said. 
Adam Webb spoke next. 
“I can’t argue with Mac on that thinking, but I’m not for masks,” he said.
Dean Aye said he would support masks if the numbers justified that. He also pointed out that the number of kids affected is much higher than the 50 positive cases. Hundreds of students have been quarantined. 
“We can’t teach them if they don’t show up,” Aye said.
Farrell Graves pointed out that a mask mandate is only from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. It does not apply after school when students spend their time shoulder to shoulder with each other. It might not make an impact on whether the school can keep kids out of quarantine, he said.
“But if we get a drastic spike, I would be willing to revisit it,” Graves explained.
“I’m not for a mandate when it comes to masks,” said Matt Hobson.
He went on to point out that appropriate mask wearing in accordance with CDC guidelines is not enforceable for kids, e.g. having them wash or sanitize their hands every time they touch their mask.
“And we’re elected by a majority of people in this school district, and we represent that majority,” he continued, “and you don’t see [mask wearing] in the community. I think we have to consider who we represent. It’s not reflective of what this community wants.”
The Board moved on to the next item on the agenda without a vote or any action.

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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