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School districts expected to re-examine mask policies after Cole County judge's ruling

Gov. Mike Parson said any health order changes don't go into effect until Dec. 22, when most school districts will be in the middle of winter break

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — Talking at his regular briefing Monday morning, County Executive Sam Page emphasized the importance of vaccines and masking, even as the county's mask mandate is in question.

"The parents have been getting their 5- to 11-year-olds vaccinated so they can stay in school and gather safely with family members for the holidays," Page, a Democrat, said.

On Nov. 23, a Missouri judge ruled local health orders imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state are illegal and should be lifted. Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled orders such as quarantines and business closures violate the Missouri Constitution's separation of powers clause affecting the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

Since then, confusion about the current rules has continued. When asked about the possibility of bringing back a mask mandate, Page said "if more people are wearing masks, then St. Louis County will be better off."

One place still requiring masks within their four walls is Education Plus, a non-profit that works with 60 area school districts to share ideas and resources.

"Schools are great rule followers, but we just don't know what the rules are right now," EdPlus CEO Paul Ziegler said.

Ziegler said districts are waiting to see what happens with the Cole County judgment, but they have the time to do it since Missouri's Republican Governor, Mike Parson, said any changes wouldn't go into effect until Dec. 22. At that time, most county school districts will be in the middle of winter break.

"What schools don't want to do is make a decision and then have to change it the next day or the next week," he said.