KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Blue Valley School District Board of Education voted, 6-1, Monday night to extend its mask mandate to students in ninth through 12th grade and those in its 18- to 21-year-old program.
The mandate will be reviewed at least quarterly.
The district had previously announced that kindergarten through eighth grade students, as well as visitors and staff, will be required to wear masks in school buildings – despite stating days prior it would not require face coverings.
Board of Education Vice President Michele Benjamin said that more than 1,400 emails were sent to the district regarding masking.
Nineteen people spoke at the board meeting, with the majority in favor of a mask mandate for all grade levels.
Several Kansas City-area doctors penned a letter shortly after Blue Valley’s initial decision, advocating for universal masking.
“There is no doubt that masks work to curb the spread of disease,” the letter stated. “Masks are a simple, cheap and life-saving intervention. Cloth masks are proven to decrease transmission of respiratory droplet particles by 51%. The consistent and appropriate use of masks last school year allowed more than 20,000 Blue Valley students to safely return to in-person instruction.”
Before the board voted, a group of protesters opposed to any more mask mandates gathered outside.
"If you want to wear a mask you, should have the choice to do," said Amy Thomas, who has two children in the district. "So if I don’t want my child to wear a mask, I should have the right to do so."
Others, like Sarah Nessel, whose son has autism, wanted the mandate extended to the higher grades to protect all students.
"He needs the services the district can provide," she said, "and it’s very important to him to have the social interaction that comes from being full time in-person school and this is a way to accomplish that."
Data on a district COVID-19 dashboard show that Blue Valley’s virus cases in the last academic year peaked in December with 107 cases reported two weeks in a row, followed by 102 cases, from the week of Dec. 22 through the week of Jan. 13.
District officials shifted their stance after the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners passed a mask mandate that applied to students in kindergarten through sixth grade.