Gasconade County R-2 finishes first week of new mask mandate

Superintendent responds to GCR survey questions

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 11/25/20

Following the first week of initiating the Gasconade County R-2 School District’s mask mandate, administrators are becoming more comfortable with explaining what this new protocol will look …

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Gasconade County R-2 finishes first week of new mask mandate

Superintendent responds to GCR survey questions

Posted

Following the first week of initiating the Gasconade County R-2 School District’s mask mandate, administrators are becoming more comfortable with explaining what this new protocol will look like.

Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner on Friday afternoon attempted to clear up some of the confusion by answering questions that were submitted online via the Gasconade County Republican’s Facebook survey.

Questions included the following:

Q: Will face shields be an acceptable alternative to masks?

A: “Guidance from the Governor’s office, the state department and Department of Health and Senior Services say face shields do not allow students, if they come in contact with or close contact to a positive COVID-19 case, to be able to attend school. The face shields as barriers do not qualify. If they wear a face shield, then they would be quarantined by the health department if they come into contact with a positive COVID-19 case because it doesn’t meet the guidelines to be quarantined by the state. It has to be a face covering at this time to meet the guidelines required by the state. If they have a medical reason to wear a shield, of course, we are going to work with them on that, but it would not qualify them from not being quarantined. We and the health department have to follow the guidelines for that.”

Q: Is the mask mandate district-wide?

A: “As of right now, the mask mandate is district-wide.”

Q: Have e-learning numbers increased?

A: “We have had some requests at buildings to move to the virtual option,” Garner said. “They are still working through those on a case-by-case basis with those parents. Earlier in the week, we had some positive cases.”

The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for the district is at 20 students and 18 staff members since Aug. 24 when school began.

“We contact traced yesterday from a case on Friday the 13th. We just found out about the positive case. I am not sure how many quarantined students we have had — over 200 have been quarantined on our contact tracing since the beginning of the year,” Garner said. “There are times when someone may have tested positive or were in quarantine and we weren’t aware of it.”

Q: Will kids with asthma and autism be exempt?

A: “The bottom line is, if there is a legitimate issue with a student, we are going to work through that accommodation with them and their family physician and what accommodation is needed there,” Garner said.

Q: What does a doctor’s note allowing someone to not have to wear a mask accomplish for a student?

A: “It depends on the recommendation from the medical professional,” Garner said. “We are going to work with the families and the medical professionals just like we would with any medical issue — asthmatic, diabetic —we are going to work with those medical professionals to make sure we are able to assist them.”

Garner said because they are just now working through the issues, they are going to emphasize physical distancing as much as they possibly can and continue to focus on the three standards — “physical distance, good hygiene and wearing masks. The whole mask change is to try to ensure that if a student was considered close contact to try to keep them in-seat where in-person learning can still take place.”

Q: What is a 504 plan?

A: “A document that addresses a student’s potential need for accommodations based on a medical diagnosis in case they have a life-altering situation.”

Q: The dress code policy outlines what the punishment would be for not wearing a mask. What is the dress code policy?

A: “The dress code policy is in our Student Handbook and can be accessed from our website at www.dutchmen.edu.”

On the site, click on Staff Resources at the top and then click on Forms and Handbooks.

Q: Will the policy that prevents e-learning students from participating in sports be re-evaluated or revisited now that the mask mandate is in place?

A: “The board can change any requirements that they want, but right now I don’t think the requirements are going to change for virtual learners.”

Q: Will an open meeting between parents and the school board take place at next month’s meeting?

A: “The board is not planning on hosting that at this time. Some parents have called to ask, but nothing is scheduled,” Garner said. “The board agenda has not been set for the meeting coming up (Dec. 21).”

Status of Gasconade R-1 mask mandate

While the Gasconade R-2 School District has only recently implemented the mask mandate, Gasconade R-1 in Hermann has had a mask mandate enforced since early to mid-September, according to Superintendent Dr. Scott Smith.

“Masks are mandated for grades 7-12 and K-6 is optional, but recommended,” Smith said early Friday morning. “We have allowed face shields, although they will not prevent students from being quarantined if they come in contact with a positive COVID-19 case.”

Smith added that high school students are encouraged to take steps to separate themselves from others who are not wearing masks properly.

“Cases have dropped tremendously because they are taking responsibility to socially distance themselves from other students,” Smith said.

The Gasconade R-1 School District has 900 students enrolled and update school cases and quarantine numbers on their webpage. The district also closed their seventh and eighth-grade wings at the end of October through Nov. 10 after six students tested positive. During that time, both grades were virtually learning.

Garner said the Gasconade R-2 district will enforce the masks district-wide, but it will look different at each building because of the ages of the students.

“GES is a little different from OES,” Garner said. “Which is different based on the age of the students and the set-up of the classrooms. Each of those buildings is taking what the board indicated is the requirement and ensuring we can implement that to the best of our ability within each building.”

He added that while the district, to date, has not had a positive COVID-19 case come out of close contact from a school exposure, those incidences are also hard to trace to know for sure. Other times, they find out a week later that a COVID-19 positive case was in the school because it takes that long to get a test back. The issue also changes when dealing with Franklin, Gasconade or Phelps-Maries health departments.

“The board’s goal is to try to ensure that students can still come to school for in-person learning,” Garner said.

R-2 Board of Education members on Nov. 16 put the mask policy in place and also approved a motion calling off classes Monday and Tuesday this week leading into the Thanksgiving holiday break scheduled today (Wednesday) through Friday. Classes are scheduled to resume at their normal starting times on Monday, Nov. 30, with the mask protocol in place.

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