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Kansas COVID-19 coordinator pushes schools to implement mask mandates

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Posted at 10:09 PM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 15:33:53-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly's administration has recommended students and staff wear mask inside schools whether the person is vaccinated or not. The guidance comes just weeks before classes are set to start across the state.

"Masking indoors is really important for kids certainly who don’t have the option to get a vaccine, but even for those individuals who are vaccinated," said Marci Nielsen, chief advisor for COVID-19 Coordination for Gov. Laura Kelly.

Over the past couple weeks, school boards in Kansas have tackled this divisive issue of mandating masks for all students and staff in Kansas City, Kansas.

"Getting the masks on, although they’re not always the most comfortable, they are going to keep us safe," Stephen Linkous, KCK Public Schools chief of staff, said on the night its Board of Education voted to require masks.

Over at the Shawnee Mission School District, the board voted for elementary-aged students to be required to wear masks during the upcoming school year.

"We’ve all been placed in an extremely difficult situation and being left to be the only line of defense," Michelle Hubbard, superintendent of Shawnee Mission School District, said on Monday.

The Blue Valley School District kept in place its current policy, which leaves masks optional.

Same in the more rural Gardner Edgerton school district.

"Parents need to make that choice for themselves and for their kids and what they think is best for them," said Gardner Edgerton School Board Member Tresa Boden, when the board made its decision.

Nielsen said school districts should base their decisions on the science, not politics, and stressed these are just recommendations to keep students and staff safe.

"We certainly hope that they’re looking carefully at the amount of virus in their community and they’re looking at the CDC map and they’re making these decision based on the best science," she said.

The Olathe Board of Education so far does not have plans to change its policy, which encourages but doesn't mandate mask wearing. De Soto's Unified School District No. 232 has a similar policy.