St. Paul school requires masks during outdoor recess, despite updated guidance and zero cases

The letter from the school says students are acclimated to wearing their masks at all times, and it “has not impacted their enjoyment of outdoor time.”

St. Anthony Park Elementary School/Twitter

A St. Paul elementary school announced to parents that students will be expected to continue wearing their masks while outside at recess, despite seeing zero COVID-19 cases in the school and receiving new guidance from the district.

St. Anthony Park Elementary School notified families of this rule in a letter from the principal, saying it “may seem overly cautious,” but several reasons contributed to the decision, including concern from parents and staff.

The letter, a copy of which was given to Alpha News, says students are acclimated to wearing their masks at all times, and it “has not impacted their enjoyment of outdoor time.”

Dr. Karen Duke, principal at St. Anthony Park, spells out in the letter that the school has had zero positive cases in the past few weeks.

“Since I reported several weeks ago, I am pleased to share we have had no positive cases of COVID in our building,” Duke writes. “In order to keep up our good record, we need to remain vigilant.”

“If you have questions about masks or there is a strong reason (other than preference) why your child should remove their mask at recess, please contact your child’s teacher,” she urges, emphasizing that a parent’s “preference” alone does not justify dismissing masks.

Duke says another reason for the rule is that parents — not students — should be making the decision of whether their child may take off their mask. This would present a difficult situation, making teachers keep track of “the expectations of each family.”

Additionally, unvaccinated children present a higher risk of spreading COVID-19, and allowing them to remove their masks would result in “high numbers of lost, discarded, or mixed-up masks.”

St. Paul Public Schools is not requiring masks outdoors, according to a statement from the district issued after the governor updated statewide COVID-19 guidance, which the St. Anthony Park principal acknowledged in her letter.

Outdoor transmission is extremely low, as reported by The New York Times and shown by several studies from epidemiologists. The number may be as low as 0.1%.

Plus, children are at a much lower risk of developing severe sickness from the virus and almost never die from contracting COVID-19. In Minnesota, there have been a total of three deaths from COVID-19 for those under age 14. In the nation, the mortality rate for those under 18 is less than 0.0001%.

Minnesota’s “Safe Learning Plan” requires masks in all indoor settings, “on school grounds where social distancing cannot be maintained,” and on school transportation.

St. Anthony Park Elementary is encouraging families to use the “COVID Decision Tree” they provide, which lays out what to do if a child has certain symptoms.

Kindergarten through fifth grade students in St. Paul Public Schools returned to in-person learning at the beginning of February, after almost a year of distance learning. The district is the second-largest in the state and is home to 37,000 students.

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