Is “freedom” from masks or other COVID-19 protocols more important than the health and safety of students and their families?
That’s the very stark but obvious choice facing the Kansas City-area’s Spring Hill Board of Education, now that it’s clear the district’s lax COVID protocols are sickening kids and failing the community.
Parents and patrons of the Spring Hill district in southern Johnson County should make their feelings known to board of education members before or at their next meeting at 7 a.m. Monday at Dayton Creek Elementary School.
A stunning graph from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment shows a recent dramatic surge in COVID cases in Spring Hill compared to other nearby school districts. Other schools in the county have averaged about 3 cases per 1,000 students since Aug. 15. The Spring Hill average was 15, or five times more.
The only significant difference between the districts is their COVID protocols. After the Johnson County Commission on Aug. 5 ordered masks in schools for students up to sixth grade, all other districts extended the mandate through high school — except for Spring Hill, which made masks optional for high schoolers.
Worse yet, the district allowed parents of the younger students to execute mask exemptions without a doctor’s say-so — effectively making masks optional for all grade levels.
It’s been a science experiment with children’s health. And it has failed miserably.
Teachers, administrators and parents in Spring Hill should also be alarmed by Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson’s report Wednesday of a middle schooler’s death this week in the state — as well as Spring Hill High School’s designation as a COVID cluster site by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
With all due respect — because we really do recognize the immense pressures school officials are under during this pandemic — it’s not enough for a Spring Hill spokesperson to say administrators and board members “are constantly monitoring the situation.” One can “monitor” a baby stroller bounding perilously down a flight of stairs, but the proper course of action is to stop watching and actually do something.
What would the county health department have Spring Hill do? Deputy director Charlie Hunt says, “JCDHE would suggest that school districts follow the guidance provided earlier this month that include a multi-layered approach of four primary evidence-based mitigation strategies: 1) promotion of vaccination; 2) universal indoor mask wearing, regardless of vaccination status; 3) exclusion of persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection; and 4) exclusion of persons who are close contacts of a COVID-19 case.”
It shouldn’t take but a few minutes. Long before 8 a.m. Monday, an hour into their meeting, Spring Hill Board of Education members should have already approved a mask mandate in all grade levels, and looked at what other COVID protocols need tightening. Anything less is playing Russian roulette with students’ health. The evidence shows it.
It might also be instructive for the district to borrow from what some of the other Johnson County school districts are doing. All the others are at 3 cases per 1,000 or below. Don’t you have to ask what those other districts are doing right? Isn’t the answer evident?
We shouldn’t fool ourselves by the fact that the young are more resilient. As noted above, kids have died from the COVID-19 delta variant. And regardless, The Star has written about COVID-surviving kids in Kansas City watching their more vulnerable and unvaccinated parents die after bringing the virus home. Do we really need to risk repeating that tragedy?
No doubt the science students in Spring Hill schools are told to follow the science.
So why don’t the adults?