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story.lead_photo.caption Brittney Jackson, a second-grade teacher at West Elementary School, helps students as they work on solving a math problem. Photo by Jefferson City School District

The Jefferson City School District will lift its mask requirement for the last two weeks of summer school, the district announced Thursday.

The district currently requires students and staff to wear masks on buses and when social distancing cannot be maintained. From June 21 to July 1, masks will no longer be required.

"As conditions in our local community have continued to improve, we have reassessed our 'Summer School 2021 COVID-19 Plan' and decided to lift the mask requirement for the second half of our summer school session," the district shared in an email to staff and families.

The district does not have any active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, according to its website.

JC Schools still encourages masks for those who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. The district does not track who is vaccinated, but it uses the state's vaccination database while contact tracing to determine whether individuals have been vaccinated.

The use of masks is also factored into contact-tracing investigations. Close contacts of a positive case who are not vaccinated and not wearing a mask will be required to quarantine, as will close contacts who are vaccinated, were not wearing a mask and are symptomatic. Close contacts who are vaccinated, were not wearing a mask and are not symptomatic will not be required to quarantine, according to the district's email.

The remaining key priorities of the JC Schools "Summer School 2021 COVID-19 Plan" will remain in place, including sanitation efforts, social distancing, staff and student screening measures, limited visitor access to buildings, and procedures for COVID-19 infections.

The Cole County Health Department supports the district lifting its mask policy, according to the email. Most other schools in Cole County lifted their mask requirements before summer school or never had a mask requirement.

Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell has said local schools' COVID-19 restrictions do not need to be strict since cases in Cole County are low, and she trusts school districts to do what's best for them.

Chezney Schulte, communicable disease coordinator for the Cole County Health Department, has said summer school is a good time to loosen COVID-19 restrictions and learn what works and what doesn't to create a plan for the 2021-22 school year.

Throughout summer school, the district will continue to closely monitor local case rates and conditions within the school setting. District leaders will further reassess the mask guidance if necessary and will evaluate the effectiveness of the change while planning for the 2021-22 school year, according to the email.

The district anticipates having details about which protocols will be in place for the fall by mid-July and will share the plan with staff and families then, according to JC Schools Communications Director Ryan Burns.

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