face mask

As the second week of school drew to a close, two Jefferson County school districts instituted indoor mask-wearing policies because students and staff had tested positive for COVID-19.

At Crystal City, more than 6 percent of its students had tested positive for COVID-19, the district reported on its website.

Jefferson R-7 had more than 2 percent of its students and staff test positive as of Wednesday (Sept. 1).

The Crystal City District reported today (Sept. 3) that 39 of its approximately 560 students had tested positive for the virus. The district also had 57 students in quarantine after possible exposure to the virus. In addition, 10 teachers were out after testing positive, according to the district’s website.

The number of positive cases and students in quarantine forced the district to cancel its high school football game tonight against Agape at St. James High School. Crystal City High also has canceled its Sept. 10 game at Bayless High School, according to the website.

The Crystal City High volleyball team also canceled games that were supposed to be held Thursday (Sept. 2), as well as games that had been scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Sept. 7-9).

“We saw the cases jump on Monday (Aug. 30) when we were off school, and Tuesday (Aug. 31), they jumped again,” said Crystal City Superintendent Matt Holdinghausen, whose district has a four-day schedule with classes held Tuesday through Friday.

“It seems like a lot of families are getting it,” he said. “I think there has been some transmission between students. Whether it has been inside of school or outside of school, we are seeing cases of both.”

Jefferson R-7 began the school year Aug. 23, after announcing COVID-19 case thresholds for individual buildings and the district that would require masks to be worn.

Plattin Primary Elementary crossed the threshold for positive cases Aug. 27 and started requiring masks at that building Monday. On Wednesday, the district announced students and staff members in all buildings would have to start wearing masks indoors on Thursday as the positive cases went above 2 percent.

Jefferson R-7 reported on its website today that 29 students, or 2.61 percent of its 1,109-student population, and four staff members, or 2.48 percent of its 161 employees, had tested positive for the virus. The district said the mask-wearing policy will be in place until seven days after its positive rate drops below 2 percent.

Crystal City’s school year began Aug. 24, and students and staff were not required to wear masks, except on school buses, where it is federally mandated to help stem the spread of COVID-19.

“It is hard to tell,” Holdinghausen said on whether a mask requirement may have kept down the number of students testing positive for the virus. “I think with masks we wouldn’t have had to quarantine as many people. I think we would have had less active contacts with masks, but we really are not doing anything differently than the schools around us are. We just got hit by it.”

Crystal City, along with the De Soto, Festus R-6, Grandview R-2, Hillsboro R-3, Jefferson R-7, Northwest R-1, Sunrise R-9 and Windsor C-1 school districts did not require masks when the school year began. St. Pius X High School in Crystal City also did not require students and staff to wear masks.

Dunklin R-5 and Fox C-6 were the only two Jefferson County school districts to require masks when the school year started.

Holdinghausen said despite the number of positive cases and students quarantined, the district does not plan to close its buildings and teach students through online classes.

“I called the Health Department, and they recommended we continue to do what we are doing,” Holdinghausen said. “We want to make sure we have as many kids in school as we can. If it gets to a point we can’t staff (schools) safely, we would have to close the buildings, but we are not there yet.”