KEARNEY, Mo. — Beginning Dec. 23, mask wearing won’t be required in any building within the Kearney School District following Monday's vote by the board of education.
Though masks will only be recommended, the district also has plans for students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 or show symptoms.
Students and staff will be excluded from school premises and and activities.
Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will have to be symptom-free for 24 hours before returning to school.
If a student or staff tests positive for the virus, they can return to school and work after 10 days.
In August, the board previously voted to have universal masks for all students, staff and visitors regardless of vaccination.
While they wouldn't go on-camera and couldn't make remarks during the special meeting, many of the parents in attendance were in favor of making masks optional from the beginning.
"We’re still working with our local community health partners and so our new plan very much aligns with best practices when it comes to community with these public health issues," Ray Weikal, director of communications and community relations for the Kearney School District said.
The district insisted their changes had nothing to do with the Missouri Attorney General's letter from last week that demanded school districts repeal any masks or vaccine requirements related to COVID-19.
Instead, the district said it was the court ruling the AG cited that accelerated their timeline to update their "Return to School" plan.
The changes come as the Clay County Health Department reported a 77% jump in new COVID-19 cases and a 47% increase in hospitalizations last week compared to the previous week.
That may have some asking, is this the right time to stop requiring masks?
"We are looking at what is best for our district and the needs of our community," Weikal said. "And certainly, I would suggest that that would be a good question for public health authorities to address, but for the Kearney School District right now, this is the decision that the administration and the board of education are very, very confident in."
Moving forward, the school board now plans to review and renew their COVID-19 protocols every month.