(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Masks are currently optional for kids in the St. Joseph School District, but as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the area district leaders and teachers are keeping a close eye on Covid-19 numbers.
The recent uptick in Covid-19 cases has become a setback for the district.
"We were hoping to start this school year being mask less and being able to be as close to normal as possible," Tami Pasley, SJSD board president. "Obviously, we're disappointed."
The return to normal could be put on hold yet again as Covid-19 continues to spread.
According to the latest numbers from the St. Joseph Health Department, 166 new cases were reported this week, and the county's rate for full vaccinated residents sits at only 19.7%
J. Eric Simmons, a teacher in the district, is also concerned. Simmons said the numbers tell him what he and other educators can expect in the classroom this fall.
"Our community is a part of our schools," Simmons said. "When our vaccination rate is incredibly low, that is going to directly impact our classrooms so when a student comes into school."
Simmons, who is also the president of the St. Joseph National Educators Association (NEA) agrees with recent guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) which recommends masks be worn for kids age 2 and up this fall.
"If [the AAP] is recommending as professionals of children's health, that's something that we need to take into consideration."
District superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl however, had a different take.
"There are pluses and minuses to [the AAP's mask guidance]," Van Zyl said. "It's been fairly political."
SJSD board members plan to announce sometime early next month if they're willing to take a second look at their current policy. District leaders say they want to base that final decision on local numbers.
The first day of class for SJSD students is set for August 23.