Columbia Public Schools will “expect” students to wear masks during the fall semester, according to a district letter sent to families Monday.
“We respect and understand that there will be exemptions as not all students will be able to wear a mask,” the letter said.
A week ago, the district came out with plans for the fall reopening in which it said students will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks.
The change followed feedback from families, including a Saturday Zoom webinar during which the overall sentiment was for requiring masks but allowing exceptions.
*Exemptions mentioned included students with special needs, anxiety, trauma or ADHD.
During the webinar, Stiepleman said that in addition to hearing-impaired students needing to read lips, it’s important for young students to see a teacher’s face when learning how to read. He said the district has purchased see-through masks for those reasons and is considering transparent face shields as well.
In the letter, the district also announced an extension from Tuesday to next Monday for parents to decide whether their children will attend in-person classes in the fall or continue remote learning. The desire for an extension was raised in the Saturday webinar.
On Friday, Mayor Brian Treece tweeted that he asked the city manager to draft an ordinance mandating citywide mask usage. If the ordinance is passed, the district will “look for guidance on possible exemptions that may apply,” according to the letter.
During the webinar, CPS Superintendent Peter Stiepleman said he doesn’t want to enact disciplinary actions to enforce a mask requirement. Parents suggested the district try to positively reinforce mask usage. Stiepleman also said he personally supports students wearing masks.