Kansas City area officials may have dropped mask mandates — but not these schools

·5 min read

OK, there won’t be a quiz on this, but it’s certainly worth remembering.

The question: Do students in the Kansas City area still have to wear masks at school, even though most mandates have now been eased?

The answer for most districts in the Kansas City area appears to be a resounding yes, masks still required. But in The Star’s sampling of school districts on Friday, one district — Lee’s Summit — said it had dropped all such requirements.

On Thursday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer have to wear masks or socially distance outdoors or in most indoor settings. Soon, Kansas City and Johnson, Jackson, Clay and Platte counties and several municipalities echoed the decision, allowing their mask orders to expire. (Wyandotte County planned to meet later to discuss.)

But sorry, kids.

“So we haven’t changed anything,” said David Smith, the Shawnee Mission school district’s chief of communications. “We have a mask mandate that was put in place last July and we haven’t changed it since then.

“The CDC said to schools we’re not changing our school guidance. Their school guidance recommends mask wearing and social distancing. So we’re going to continue.”

The backlash, he said, has been minimal, and not surprising.

“I’ve head from parents whom I heard from previously that said, ‘Let’s stop with the mask wearing.’ And I’ve heard from them again,” Smith said. “We’re a divided country on this.”

Using a new Kansas law, several families in Blue Valley, Olathe and De Soto have filed complaints or sued those districts over school mask mandates, but so far all have been dismissed.

The CDC says only people who are fully vaccinated can drop their masks, and until this past week, only those 16 and older were eligible. The CDC announced Wednesday that kids 12 and up can now get the shot.

As the school year draws to a close, here’s how several area districts are handling the mask guidance:

Olathe: Masks required. “We announced two weeks ago that we are keeping our mask mandate in place through the end of the school year for all staff and students,” Maggie Kolb, the district’s executive director of communications, said Friday. “Additionally, today we shared that students and staff participating in summer activities (such as summer school) would continue to wear masks indoors through June.”

Blue Valley: Masks required. School ends May 28. “As the end of the school year nears, our priority is to keep staff and students safe and finish the year strong with in-person graduations and other end-of-year celebrations,” Kaci Bruto, the district’s director of communications, said in a statement. “Mitigation measures, including masking, have made in-person learning and these activities possible. With this in mind, Blue Valley will maintain the mask requirement.”

Kansas City Public Schools: Masks required. Inside. Outside. “Yes, on buses and playgrounds currently,” said Kelly Wachel, the district’s chief marketing and communications officer.

Park Hill: Masks required. “Our health and safety precautions in the Park Hill School District, including masks, will remain the same through the final nine and a half days of the school year,” the district said in a release to parents, students and staff. “Yesterday, the CDC changed its mask rules for fully vaccinated people, but most students are not vaccinated, and the CDC guidance for schools has not changed.” Officials will decide soon about safety protocols for summer school.

Hickman Mills: “At this time masks are still required in all HMC-1 buildings on school buses and during recess,” said Marissa Wamble, the district’s director of public information. “We will be discussing any possible changes next week.”

North Kansas City: Mixed. No change from previous policy, wrote Susan Hiland, director of media and public relations.

Masks are no longer required outside, even if individuals are not physically distanced. The CDC and Clay County still recommend masks when outdoors and unable to maintain distance. Students and staff are welcome to continue wearing a mask when outside, but will not be required to do so.

Masks are still required indoors in all facilities and school buses. Social distancing is recommended to the extent possible, but is not required.

Lee’s Summit: No masks required indoors or outdoors. The district follows guidelines set by Jackson County, said Katy Bergen, the district’s executive director of public relations. “Whatever they said, we did,” she said.

On April 30, the county, in accordance with new CDC guidelines, determined that masks and social distancing were no longer required outdoors. So the district made masks optional outdoors, but still required them indoors. Guidelines have eased even further.

Jackson County announced Friday it had dropped its health orders but said business and other public spaces can set their own mask requirements. Masks are still required in county buildings.

“In compliance with those health orders,” Bergen said, “masks will no longer be required in the school district, pre-K through adult, regardless of vaccination status.

“However, we’ll continue to strongly recommend that all individuals who are not vaccinated continue to wear masks. We encourage our community to follow public health recommendations. But because there’s no mask mandate in the county, there is no mask mandate in the Lee’s Summit district.”

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