Webster Groves middle school reinstates masks after rise in Covid cases

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 3:14 PM CDT
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WEBSTER GROVES (KMOV) -- The Webster Groves School District announced students and staff at Hixson Middle School will wear masks for the next two weeks after a rise in COVID-19 cases.

The Webster Groves School Board previously decided it would temporarily impose a mask mandate if a school’s population exceeded a 1.5% positivity rate, which is about 16 cases. The total population of students and staff at Hixson Middle School is 1094 people.

Some families told News 4 they expected cases to rise again as mask mandates were lifted, but other parents said they are frustrated and feel like they’ve done everything they can to keep their students safe and prevent masks from being required.

“It’s very frustrating as a parent to watch your kids go through this again,” said Allyson Travers, who has two children who go to Hixson Middle School. “You absolutely have a right in this district and everywhere else to wear a mask if you feel safer with that, if feel the need. At this point, I just don’t understand the urge to require everyone to mask up when it’s just not necessary.”

Rebecca Dohrman, who has 7th grade student at Hixson, shared her thoughts on the district’s decision with this statement:

“I have full confidence in our building and district leadership who have deftly managed our policies during the entire pandemic under difficult circumstances. We appreciate our administrators for their excellent work creating and executing policies as the pandemic persists. We will comply with the policy and we are glad to follow our district’s policies to keep our school community safe.”

News 4 asked Dr. Clay Dunagan, BJC Chief Clinical Officer and Infectious Disease Specialist at Washington University, on his perspective following the districts decision to reinstate a mask mandate for one of their schools.

“We saw pretty effectively that if schools put good mitigation strategies, they were able to keep educating kids in the classroom,” said Dr. Dunagan. “So, I think it’s better for schools to err on the side of being cautious because that way they can keep executing on their mission.”

Parents like Travers question why the district only chose to implement a mask mandate on one school, when it is possible families who could come into contact with COVID-19 have students across multiple schools in the district.

“To isolate one school and pretend that masking is going to do anything seems kind of silly,” she said.

While the latest strain of the COVID-19 variant has not prompted a return to mask mandates in the St. Louis metro, Dunagan does believes the community will continue to see mask policies change in places like school so long COVID-19 continues to evolve.

“I think that is ideally going to be a part of the future. I just don’t know whether people are going to have the political and social will to do it unless things get pretty difficult,” he said. “I don’t think if we see a surge now it will be as big as what we saw in January. That’s my best guess. But not knowing how severe it will be, the best time to take evasive action is early on when you can decrease case rates and contagion.”

The Webster Grove School District School Board is set to have a meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. where masks will also be required.