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3 Johnson County school districts to discuss 2021-2022 COVID-19 mitigation plans

Masking, vaccination recommendations vary
As COVID-19 cases surge, CDC recommends universal indoor mask use
Posted at 1:42 PM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-26 19:37:41-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three Johnson County school districts are set to present fall COVID-19 mitigation plans Monday night.

The boards of education for Shawnee Mission, Gardner Edgerton and Spring Hill school districts will discuss which safety measures to implement for the 2021-2022 school year.

Shawnee Mission School District mitigation options

The Shawnee Mission School District board will review two proposals.

Under each, the district recommends all students and staff who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine receive it.

Both proposals also call for masks on school buses, though masks won’t be required outdoors, including during elementary recess.

The second proposal is more stringent, however, when it comes to individuals who aren’t eligible for the vaccine.

Elementary students will be required to wear masks under the proposal, until they have the opportunity to get the vaccine. That could come as early as this winter.

For students in secondary levels, it’s strongly recommended that people who are unvaccinated mask until fully vaccinated.

The district’s first proposal follows that model for all grade levels, including elementary.

Both proposals remove a cohorting requirement for secondary grade levels, though elementary students will continue to sit at assigned seats in the cafeteria to maintain class cohorts.

Spring Hill School District mitigation options

In Spring Hill, the school board will review a plan from the superintendent which does not call for a mask mandate.

Instead, masks will be “highly encouraged” inside Spring Hill facilities for people who haven’t been fully vaccinated.

Masks are optional for everyone while outdoors, according to the plan.

Physical distancing will be encouraged where and when possible, though classrooms, lunchrooms and other areas will return to pre-COVID-19 usage.

The superintendent’s plan didn’t encourage people one way or another on vaccines, but stated Spring Hill School District will not collect vaccination information unless directed to do so by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment (JCDHE).

Details on Gardner-Edgerton’s plan were not immediately available, though a meeting agenda confirmed board members would discuss JCDHE’s recommendations.

Earlier this month, JCDHE announced four main recommendations for schools:

  • require masks inside for those who are not fully vaccinated;
  • promote vaccination;
  • send home any person who may have COVID-19;
  • send home those close to a person who has the virus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended universal masking for everyone older than 2 for the 2021-2022 school year — regardless of vaccination status.

That’s contrary to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states vaccinated students and staff don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings.

Children's Mercy released its back-to-school recommendations Monday, writing that a layered mitigation approach is key to providing a safe in-person learning environment.

Blue Valley School District, also in Johnson County, will not require masks in any capacity.

In Kansas City, Kansas, school officials unanimously voted last week to require masks for anyone in a school building, including students, staff, teacher, parents and visitors.

On the other side of the state line, Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools’ board has yet to vote on its mitigation proposal, which would follow AAP guidance in requiring universal masking.

The discussions come amid an increase in COVID-19 cases due to the faster-spreading delta variant of the virus.