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Tue Feb 22, 2022, 01:01 PM

What can Missouri kids do when politics interfere with school safety? They can walk out.

In December, as Columbia Public Schools headed into winter break, students and teachers got word that they'd be returning post holiday without a mask mandate. This was at the height of the omicron variant surge, and Quinn Felts, a sophomore at Hickman High School, got an uneasy feeling that stuck with him through the break.

The 15-year-old has never known high school to be what's often invoked as "normal." When the COVID-19 pandemic began, he was still in eighth grade.

The last time he left his middle school building, he didn't realize he was leaving for good.

"I didn't even say goodbye to any of my teachers," Felts recalls. "They said it was going to be a two-week break."

He spent a lonely summer distanced from friends, before his high school career began in hybrid mode: partially online, partially in person.

"We kind of alternated days," Felts explains. "Like, a group of people would go Monday, and then another group of people would go Wednesday, and then we'd go back Friday. So in between those days they could sanitize."

But every day on campus was a mask day.

(As an aside, my dad was a grad of the original Hickman High School, 1936. So was Sam Walton)

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