Surveys show overwhelming preference for a mask-free 2021-22 school year

By Ralph Echtinaw

School should be closer to normal for St. Louis students come September, as surveys of parents and staff showed an overwhelming preference for no masks.

The survey of 383 parents representing 655 students (67 percent of student body) went like this:

“Do you feel facial coverings should be optional for SLPS staff for the 2021-22 school year?”

90.9 percent said yes.

“Do you feel facial coverings should be optional for SLPS students for the 2021-22 school year? 

90.1 percent said yes.

“Do you agree St. Louis Public School should NOT perform diagnostic testing (antibody testing) on students for the 2021-22 school year?”

89.6 percent said yes.

A survey of 53 staffers produced similar results:

“Do you feel all staff, regardless of vaccination status should have to wear a facial covering next year?”

77.4 percent said no.

“Do you feel all students, regardless of vaccination status should have to wear a facial covering next year?”

79.2 percent said no.

Superintendent Jennifer McKittrick explained the 2021-22 policy to school board members Monday.

Masks are recommended but optional for unvaccinated staff and students indoors.

However, masks must be worn on buses, as a Center for Disease Control order requiring masks on public transportation remains in effect.

St. Louis schools won’t perform antibody testing on staff or students.

Staff must answer health screening questions daily.

“If a student is symptomatic we asses their symptoms and may check their symptoms,”McKittrick said via email. “If the symptoms are atypical for that student we advise the parent to take the student to the physician for a diagnosis.” Last year they caught just three or four students with high temperatures, McKittrick told the board.

Mitigation measures such as cleaning and sanitizing buses, classrooms and surfaces that are used frequently will continue. Staff and students will be encouraged to wash and sanitize hands frequently.

Three feet is the new standard for social distancing. Staff and students will be advised to stay home if sick.

Virtual learning only available to students deemed medically vulnerable by a doctor. Students must sign up for this by Aug. 4 and commit to a whole semester of virtual learning.

2021-22 school calendar

The calendar has been completed. It includes one professional development day per month for teachers with early release of students on those days. 

Teachers return to work on Aug. 25 and 26. Students return on Aug. 30 with early release at 12:35-12:45 p.m., depending on what building they are in.

June 8, 2022 will be last day of the school year.

Student manual changes

High School Principal Eric Huff briefed the school board on changes to the student manual.

Students caught with tobacco will now lose open campus lunch privileges in addition to existing sanctions.

The truancy intervention program kicks in after six unexcused absences, down from ten. “Hopefully they get the truancy officer here at the beginning of the school year to meet with students who’ve had attendance issues in the past,” Huff said.

One hour of detention will be awarded for every third tardy.

Students on detention must give up their cell phones be it in school, after school, or during lunch. “This will probably be the thing we get the most pushback on,” Huff said. “We don’t want detention to turn into an opportunity for kids to continue communicating electronically.”

The student dress code was changed as follows:

Hoods on sweat shirts must be kept down in classrooms. No sunglasses allowed inside. When signing out, students must leave the campus.

A reference to the school rule allowing searches of bags and pockets has been added to the student manual to make students aware of the policy.

Additions and subtractions

Aaron Munderloh resigned after eight years as head football coach.

Terre Sura was hired to be the high school counselor. She taught English in St. Louis in 2002 and left that year to be a counselor at Ithaca’s junior/senior high school counselor. Sura has a bachelor’s degree from CMU and a master’s degree from Alma College.

James Sterling was hired as custodian for Nikkari Elementary.

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