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MARYVILLE, Mo. — During a special meeting on Wednesday, March 31 of the Maryville R-II Board of Education voted 3-2 to rescind the districtwide mask policy requiring all students and staff to wear masks to help keep all those in the school district as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. The policy will end as of Thursday, April 1.

Superintendent Becky Albrecht recommended to board members that the mask policy remain in effect even though requiring everyone wearing masks has caused many to grow weary.

“We’re tired of them, everyone is tired of them and we don’t like them,” Albrecht said about masks. “However, in my role I feel like I’m obligated to keep kids in school as much as I can. Even though the risk is low there is still a risk there.”

There was some discussion by board members about whether there could be some changes made to the policy, but Albrecht said that any changes would be cumbersome to implement.

“Either everyone wears them or we don’t wear them for the rest of the school year,” she said.

Albrecht told the board that the only way this district can have somewhat of a safety net is with a mask policy.

“I can’t guarantee kids will be in school either way, but I can say that even though the risk is small if we have a positive case less kids will be quarantined if they’re wearing a mask than if they weren’t,” she said. “I feel obligated to come down on the side of that.”

During the first semester the school district had approximately 1,000 quarantines of students and staff. That number has decreased in the second semester, but there are still numerous quarantines. Had individuals not been wearing masks, Albrecht is certain that number would have been much higher.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic people across the country have been divided on the mask issue. This varying of opinion also held true to the Maryville Board of Education

The motion to end the policy was made by board member Rob Sparks. Joining Sparks in voting to remove the mask requirement was board vice president Sean Wiedmaier. The two board members voting in opposition to the motion were Elaine Wilson and Kelley Baldwin. To break the deadlock, Board President Jason Haer voted to end the policy. Board members Frank Grispino and Josh McKim were absent. If a student or staff member would still like to wear a mask they still may.

The district had required students and staff to wear masks while at school and on school buses since late November, after Gov. Mike Parson released mask mandate guidance and changes.

The COVID-19 pandemic began to affect students and staff of the district starting the middle of March 2020 when all in-person classes were canceled.

Eight days into the 2020-2021 school year, Maryville High School switched to a hybrid schedule mixing in-school learning with virtual.

With the district’s mask policy now ending, so does the exception students and staff had that allows individuals who were deemed a close contact of a person who tested positive for COVID-19 to remain in school as long as they were wearing a mask.

“I know there are a lot of people who will be happy with that decision,” Albrecht said. “But we won’t have that safety net. We’ll just do the best we can and hopefully it will be fine.”