WENTZVILLE, Mo. (KMOV.com) -- Wentzville School Board officials Thursday night voted to give school administration the ability to invoke masks mandates for individual schools in the district, if a school’s student population has 2% or more positive COVID-19 cases.
The change comes after Duello Elementary reported more than 6% of positive COVID-19 cases among students on campus since the start of the fall semester. Wentzville School District is among a handful of districts in St. Charles County with a mask optional policy.
"I would just like to really see the board come back to this and really think about what impact this choice [on masking] has had on all of these kiddos so quickly,” said Kori Sloan, a parent of three children in the district.
Sloan says it's frustrating to deal with COVID-19 cases so early in the start of the school year. She says two of her children attend Duello Elementary and are currently in quarantine after being exposed to someone who tested positive.
"I don’t want it to get shut down. I would like to be able to reset, I think that would be the optimal thing. I think that’s what they kind of did with one of the middle schools last year at the end of the year is they did a shut down just to reset so that the kids could get back in,” said Sloan.
Parents like Sloan says they do not feel like school districts in the St. Charles County area are notifying parents quick enough about whether their children need to quarantine because of COVID-19 exposure.
“It's just interesting they're only focusing on the one school that has high cases, but how did that school get that high,” said Ashley Amaya, another parent in the school district. “They got that high because we're all in the same situation. It's optional masking, most parents are not sending their kids to school with masks, and it's just getting passed around in the classrooms because they're not even distanced at all."
During the district's board meeting Thursday, the board reported a total of 46 students out of 658 at Duello Elementary have tested positive for COVID-19. Wabash Elementary has the next highest percentage of students testing positive for COVID-19 at 1.72%. Green Tree, and Heritage Primary are all campuses with over 1.2% of students testing positive for COVID-19. If these schools surpass 2%, administrators at those schools will be able to impose a mask mandate.
Fort Zumwalt officials tell News 4, they also plan to implement a change in their current mask policy to prevent emerging cases in schools. An official says in part:
Beginning Monday, the district will require masks at schools where the number of COVID-positive students exceeds 4% of the student enrollment.
COVID-19 cases among children are also showing concerning trends in Jefferson County, with public health officials saying youth cases made up nearly 30 percent of total weekly cases last week. That is a first for Jefferson County since the start of the pandemic.
“When cases tend to rise, we in a few weeks see a hospitalization rise, and then we tend to see deaths, so we’re really watching this trend of increased cases and hospitalizations across not only the state but within our region as well,” said Brianne Zwiener, Public Communications Officer for Jefferson County Health Department. “We’re trying to prevent as much as we can now before we see a huge increase in cases that is unlike what we’ve seen before.”
News 4 reached out to the St. Charles County Public Health department and Wentzville School District to answer questions concerning COVID-19 cases among students, but neither were immediately available for comment.
The increase in COVID-19 cases among children in the region is also impacting local pediatric offices.
At Mercy Clinic Pediatrics O’Fallon, Missouri, staff is having to turn patients away as demand for COVID-19 tests among students and their families are increasing.
"Several sick visits a day, several sick calls,” said Pediatric Nurse Brooke Meyer. “We're having to turn people away to urgent cares because we can't meet the need for how many sick children need to be seen."
Meyer believes masks mandates did play a role in minimizing COVID-19 cases coming to their offices last year and urges students and families that are not already required to mask up to change course.
"We had a very quiet sick season last year and we didn't see the RSV last year, we had few cases of flu, and it was all related to masking because it protects against not only COVID, but all the other illnesses that are being spread as well,” said Meyer.