In a Tuesday morning board meeting, Camdenton R-III board members voted in favor of requiring students and staff to wear facemasks in certain situations around the school. A day later, local residents are mixed on the decision, though polling the issue revealed a majority are against it.

In a Tuesday morning board meeting, Camdenton R-III board members voted in favor of requiring students and staff to wear face masks in certain situations around the school. A day later, local residents are mixed on the decision, though polling the issue revealed a majority are against it.

Camdenton Superintendent Tim Hadfield released the following statement Tuesday afternoon in regards to the decision by the board and the concerns of parents and local residents.

“The Board of Education voted on Tuesday to mandate masks for students and staff in certain situations. These would include when students and staff are up and moving around, for example - passing time, lunchtime, traveling to special classes and during small group working time in class - masks are required. When students and staff have appropriate social distancing, masks would not be required.

We understand that some have a strong opinion about wearing masks. We want to assure our parents that if you are not comfortable with your child wearing a mask when moving around the building, you may contact your building administrator to request to change from seated learning to distance or virtual learning. The reverse is also true. If you selected distance or virtual learning but have now changed your mind, you may contact your building administrator to switch your child to the seated option. We realize some parents may need time to make plans and to consider how their child responds to wearing a mask while moving around. The deadline to change your child’s schooling for the first semester is September 4th,” Hadfield said.

The decision has been met with numerous opinions on social media on both sides. In a local social media polling when asked “Do you support the decision to make face masks mandatory for students and staff in lake area schools?”, local residents responded Yes 30.7%, No 69.3%.

One common theme seen by both supporters and those against the decision is the disapproval of how and when the decision was made.

Camdenton parent Tammy Rau Knoll, who has a 4th grader attending Osage Beach Elementary, says she was in favor of the choice by the district, though would have preferred the school mandate masks from the beginning of the school year. She says she does not believe the district was trying to deceive anyone by not doing so.

“My priority is being able to be in school as safely as possible,” Tammy said. “ I have no problem with the school establishing rules to make that possible. If I felt strongly they should wear masks and I was told they couldn’t, then I wouldn’t send my child. That’s how I would exercise my personal choice.”

Sarah Fields, Camdenton R-III parent, has two children attending 5th and 7th grade who she sent to school Wednesday without a mask. She says she was expecting the district to send them home, as the removal of a mask would be handled as a dress code violation.

She felt strongly about the decision and led a local protest against the decision with a handmade sign stating “Don’t Use Our Kids To Fit Your Agenda” (see above).

Fields says that no one was notified of the board meeting beforehand, which gave little opportunity for residents to share their opinions on the choice. She says she received a phone call at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday notifying her of the choice and letting her know that her children must wear masks the next day.

“We live here, we run a business here. We have a tie to the community. We love our school and love our kids but I don’t think they should be forced into doing anything,” Fields said.

Following the outpouring of local opinion, the Lake Sun reached out to Hadfield for further comment Wednesday afternoon, asking if there was a reason the district decided to make this decision a few days into the year, instead of from the start. Hadfield would respond once more, saying:

“We totally understand that people might have wished that we would have made masking mandatory prior to the start of the year. We wanted to encourage and expect masking in the district rather than mandating it. People usually like to be asked to do something rather than told to do it. After experiencing summer school, the freshman mock schedule last week and then the first day of school we found that just asking was not enough. We appreciate the understanding we have received regarding our change. As we move through the pandemic we will need to remain fluid and change as needed. We hope that our community will understand and give us grace as we work to serve the students of our district.”

Whether or not this decision will have ripple effects on surrounding lake school districts is unclear at this point. However, no other lake Superintendents confirmed any planned changes to mask policy when asked.

“At this point, the Eldon School District does not plan on making any changes. Our next school board meeting is September 21 and we will reevaluate at that time,” said Eldon Superintendent Matt Davis.

“No, not at this time - we continue to encourage students to do so, but do not require them. We continue to adhere to our reopening plan, which does include an escalation of mitigation procedures beyond what we are already doing if we experience an increase in cases. As a small rural school, we enjoy low student to teacher ratios in many of our classrooms which has made the transition to social distancing less difficult. In accordance with the first tier of our plan, we have implemented staggered passing times, compartmentalization of groups, serving breakfast and lunch within classrooms, hiring bus monitors (to help assign seats and maintain social distancing on school buses), aggressive sanitation, daily temperature checks and requiring all employees to wear masks among many other steps. We are proud of our entire school community for everything they are doing to keep everyone within our school family safe. Our faculty, staff, students, and parents have been very supportive and we appreciate everyone's flexibility in regards to the multitude of changes we have put in place this school year,” said Macks Creek Superintendent Josh Phillips.

“We did discuss it during our last meeting. Mandatory mask-wearing is part of our plan when we go to Category 2. Changing categories comes from a conversation with our health department. I am in constant contact with them and they were present during our last board meeting. We do not feel the need to change to category 2 at this time in Morgan County. As you know that could change,” said Morgan County R-II Superintendent Steven Barnes.

"Our BOE approved a reentry plan on July 27. We subsequently implemented- and have followed- this plan. No revisions are being recommended at this time," said School of the Osage Superintendent Laura Nelson.