After complaint, Valley Center schools might drop COVID rules

Posted at 12:33 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-06 13:33:59-04

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. — The Valley Center school district is considering dropping its mask mandates and social distancing rules after a former Sedgwick County commissioner complained the policies are "irrational" because the number of COVID-19 cases is declining.

The school board held a special meeting Monday in response to the complaint from former commissioner Richard Ranzau, who invoked a new state law that requires a school board hearing within three days of a complaint being filed and a final decision within a week of the hearing.

The board decided to meet again Thursday to vote on the objection. The district had planned to keep the restrictions in place for the final weeks of the school year, The Wichita Eagle reported.

Ranzau, whose son attends Valley Center High School, said the restrictions implemented in August are no longer valid because COVID-19 infection rates in Sedgwick County have dropped to between 3% and 4% and school employees now all have access to vaccinations.

He also argued the policies are harming children by depriving them of face-to-face contact, and that his 17-year-old son is not being allowed to build his his immune system by being exposed to childhood diseases.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Bonner, who leads the district's COVID committee, argued the mask mandate should continue because the infection rate among children is higher than for others. He cited state data showing the positive test rate for COVID-19 at 8.97% for ages 10-14 and 7.58% for ages 14-17.

The district also estimated only about half of its 550 total staff have been vaccinated.

Ranzau also wants the district to end all automatic quarantines and testing for students exposed to the virus but who don't show symptoms.

Bonner said the district is following the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and other health agencies concerning mask and social distancing requirements.

And he argued masks substantially reduce how many children would have to quarantine when a classmate tests positive for the virus.

He said the district had to send only three students home after two children at a school tested positive last week. About 50 people who were close contacts with the infected students did not have to quarantine because they wore masks, he said.