By Jenna Rae, News 4 Reporter
ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — Speechless, scared and frustrated. That’s how some St. Louis University High School (SLUH) students explained to News 4 they’re feeling after the school announced a new masking policy. It’s a change some students, parents and teachers call “unacceptable.”
“I’m actively going under chemo for cancer, so he [my son] takes utter precautions. So, when this announcement came through it was like ‘oh my goodness’,” a concerned parent said.
One parent News 4 who talked to Monday didn’t want to use her name. She said families received a surprise email from SLUH late Sunday afternoon, stating masking isn’t required inside school anymore, just recommended.
“They’re putting me at risk. Even if they’re saving one person by doing this, it would be so pro-life, if you want to take the Catholic route,” the parent said.
News 4’s told school administrators didn’t take family or teachers’ thoughts on masking into consideration when making the policy change.
“For being a Jesuit institution, we preach about being men and women for others and the school, with this decision, just really didn’t do that,” one student said.
News 4 talked with six students Monday. They all requested to remain anonymous.
“I was pretty scared,” another student said after finding out the news.
“I was kind of in disbelief,” said another.
“The school failed to acknowledge in their decision that a lot of people go home to elders, they go home to people with pre-existing conditions, they go home to communities of color who don’t have access to healthcare like the majority of the school does,” another student explained.
School administrators said they made the decision based on low COVID-19 case numbers, high vaccination rates and strong regional numbers. News 4 asked to talk with someone from the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force regarding regional numbers. They were unable to do an interview Monday. However, the St. Louis City Health Department told News 4 private schools are required to follow the city-wide mask mandate that was reinstated on October 1.
“The Health Order is the law while it is in effect. Thus, our expectation is that all individuals will comply,” Health Department Director Dr. Fredrick Echols said.
When News 4 asked SLUH leaders if they were defying the city’s mask mandate, they would not answer the question.
“This is life or death. This is survival for them [students], and if they don’t feel safe in that environment, then what are we paying for?,” a concerned parent said.
Faculty from the high school, who didn’t want to go on camera, said they’re extremely disappointed in the decision.
“Administration has been unresponsive and almost demeaning in response to our safety concerns. I’m worried about what’s going to happen. Students have already been mocking me for wearing my mask,” one teacher told News 4.
As of now, all other private and public schools inside St. Louis City limits continue to require masking. These SLUH students said they believe their health and wellness isn’t being made a priority compared to other students across the city.
“It shows a stark difference between those decisions being made versus how our decisions are being made, which some could argue are being funded by money or politics,” one student said.
News 4 requested an interview with Father Ian Gibbons, principal of the school, on Monday. We did not receive a call back.
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