Due to the most recent guidance from the State of Missouri and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Morgan County R-II School District Board of Education unanimously approved a mask mandate Monday, Nov. 16 at their regular board meeting in Versailles.

According to information released by the district, the mandate applies to Pre-K through 12th grade.

“I believe it is important we all understand the role of the board of education in this instance was to simply decide to put a mask mandate in place or not,” said R-II Superintendent Steven Barnes.

After the school board voted to approve the mask mandate, the responsibility to quarantine is still at the discretion of the Morgan County Health Center with the cooperation and input from the school district.

“Our administrators and nurses, alongside the health department, do their best to look at all the facts in each case and safely determine who will and will not be quarantined. That process will be no different. The new recommendations only provide additional options to consider when making those determination. I have advised our staff, when in doubt, to err on the side of caution and safety,” Barnes said.

Following are frequently asked questions regarding the mandate and brief answers. For additional details, contact the school district at 573-378-4231 or go online to the R-II website: versaillestigers.org/
What is the modified guidance involving mask use and quarantine in K-12 Schools?

On Nov. 12, the guidance related to identifying close contacts in the school setting was modified. If the person diagnosed with COVID-19 and the close contact were both wearing masks appropriately during the time of exposure in the school setting, the close contact would not need to quarantine.

Does this recommendation apply to all K-12 Schools?

Yes, if the school has implemented a mask mandate AND appropriate masks were being worn correctly by both individuals during the time of exposure in the school setting, the individual who came in contact with the person with COVID-19 does not have to quarantine at home.

Is a school mask mandate required?
No, school mask mandates are not required; the decision to require masks is made at the local level by school administrators and school board officials. However, schools must have a mask mandate for the updated guidance to apply to individuals identified as close contacts to a case at school.

4) What if a school does not have a mask mandate?
If the school has not implemented a mask mandate then close contacts in the school setting should continue to follow the previously established quarantine protocol, with close contacts quarantining at home for 14 days, regardless of mask use.

What about other barriers such as face shields or desk shields?
Face shields or desk shields are not substitutes for the use of appropriate masks.

Does this apply to student and teachers?
Yes. The updated guidance includes students, teachers, and staff at K-12 schools.

What if the individual with COVID-19 is wearing a mask, but the close contacts are not?
The updated guidance only applies if the person diagnosed with COVID-19 and the close contact were both wearing masks appropriately during the time of exposure in the school setting.

If students are seated 6 feet apart in the classroom, do they still need to be masked?
Persons seated greater than 6 feet apart would not be considered a close contact. However, there are many instances where teachers and students interact in the classroom and, therefore, can result in the teacher and/or other students in the classroom meeting the criteria as a close contact and requiring quarantine.

A school’s mask mandate that requires appropriate mask use at all times would ensure they are in compliance with the updated guidance.

Can the individual with COVID-19 return to class early if wearing a mask?
No. The individual with COVID-19 still must isolate and not return to school until the criteria is met for release from isolation.

Does the new guidance also apply to other settings, such as businesses?
No. The amended guidance is specific to the K-12 school setting.
When does the implementation of this new guidance take effect?
The decision regarding the timing of the implementation of the new guidance is a joint decision of the local education authorities and the local public health agencies.

Can students currently under quarantine return to school?
Yes. If the school has a mask mandate and both the individual with COVID-19 and the exposed individual were each properly wearing an appropriate mask at the time that the quarantine determination was made, the student may return to school.

How can a local public health authority verify students and staff were wearing masks appropriately when exposed?
Mask use should be part of the standard interview process for all COVID-19 cases identified among students, teachers, and staff at K-12 schools. The findings of the investigation (duration of close contact, mask use, etc.) will determine the identification of close contacts and recommendation for quarantine.

What is included as the school setting?
The school setting includes all classrooms, gyms, library, playgrounds, buses, etc.

What about exposures at lunch?
If an individual at school meets the CDC definition of a close contact and either the case or the close contact were not wearing masks, then the close contact would need to quarantine. Physical distancing continues to be an important mitigation strategy for schools, especially during times when students cannot wear their masks, such as meal times.

What about exposures during recess, PE, or activities such as sports, band, on the bus, etc.?
If an individual at school meets the CDC definition of a close contact and either the case or the close contact were not wearing masks, then the close contact would need to quarantine.

Are exposures that occur to students or staff wearing a mask outside of the school setting included in the updated guidance?
No. The updated guidance is specific to exposures that occur while in the school setting.

Are students and staff who are identified as close contacts to a case at school, but meet the modified guidance (proper masking), required to be in quarantine when not at school?
No.

Can persons identified as close contacts but are not required to be quarantined, per the modified guidance, continue to participate in sports or other extracurricular school related activities?
The revised guidance only serves to exclude from quarantine those in circumstances in which the individual with COVID-19 and the exposed individuals were all properly wearing masks in the school classroom setting only; it does not exclude such individuals from being considered close contacts for sports or other extracurricular school related activities.

How do we explain to the public that mask use can be used in determination of close contacts in a school setting, but not for all others outside of a school setting?
The revised guidance is limited to determinations of close contacts in school settings only. Observational analysis of eight months of experience with this novel emerging virus have shown, for this age cohort in a school setting, that given the overall advantages of in-person learning for children, at this time in this setting, this is a reasonable approach.