KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Lee's Summit R-7 School District students will be required to don face coverings in the upcoming academic year, despite dozens of protesters gathering Thursday to oppose mask mandates.
About 50-60 protesters are gathered outside the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District headquarters as the school board prepares to rule on mask mandates in schools. We are live and will bring you the latest at 4, 5, and 6 on @KSHB41 news. pic.twitter.com/iCh4eTUtlC— Caitlin Knute-KSHB 41 News (@CKnuteKSHB) August 5, 2021
The Board of Education unanimously voted on Thursday to implement the mandate, aligning the district with the Jackson County mandate, which goes into effect Aug. 9 and lasts for 30 days. The board also voted to reevaluate its mandate on Oct. 22, before the second quarter begins.
LSR7 Superintendent David Buck said he hasn’t had one medical or health official say not to implement universal masking.
“It’s kind of hard to go against all the experts who live it,” Buck said.
Regardless of the vote, Buck said, the district would require masking because of the county's move.
Board member Ryan Murdock, who was in favor of the health department’s recommendation, questioned what happens at the district level when the county’s mandate expires.
Joseph Hatley, the district’s attorney, said Jackson County’s order is similar to one recently issued in St. Louis County, which faces litigation due to questions over whether or not a state law applies, since the order enacts mitigation rather than closures.
Gov. Mike Parson had recently signed into a law a measure that limits municipality health orders to 30 days.
Board member Mike Allen questioned if there is a way to understand the effectiveness of wearing a mask to mitigate risk of contracting the virus. Ray Dlugolecki, assistant director of the Jackson County Health Department, said there is evidence for various masks, from N95 to cloth, that shows their effectiveness.
Under the mandate, fully vaccinated individuals could avoid quarantine even if exposed to the virus. However, if they test positive, they would need to isolate. Similarly, students could be excluded from quarantine, even if they are within 3 to 6 feet of someone who tests positive, so long as they are wearing masks correctly.
Those who are not vaccinated and not wearing a mask still would be required to quarantine for 14 days.
Judy Hedrick, also a board member, said she is concerned for students who do have to quarantine and what their education day looks like.
"I think we need to continue to make sure they have the best experience possible," she said.
Jackson County Health Department Director Bridgette Shaffer told the board that the county's percent positive in the past seven days is 15%. High transmission, she said, is anything greater than 10%. Health department data show that Jackson County is ranked third of 117 Missouri jurisdictions for virus cases throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as for the past seven days.
The COVID-19 delta variant is "driving much of the recent trends," according to Dlugolecki. And risk of transmission, he said, fluctuates based on the setting an individual is in, and delta "turbocharged transmission."
Roughly 30 minutes into the meeting, an unidentified man was asked to leave after outbursts interrupted Dlugolecki's presentation.
One man has been asked to leave amid outbursts during the meeting. The district has decided to take a five minute break. pic.twitter.com/LFkkUAG98N— SyKnese F. (@TVnewsSyKnese) August 5, 2021
A district spokesperson told KSHB 41 News that the district has aligned its policies with Jackson County's executive orders throughout the pandemic.
Roughly 50 to 60 people had congregated at least an hour prior to the Board of Education meeting, voicing their displeasure with the possibility of masks being mandated in the classroom.
They remained outside as the meeting got underway, but left about an hour later due to rain.
The mask mandate protesters outside Lee’s Summit District Headquarters have gone home after it started raining, but inside the district is still debating he mask mandate. The Jackson Co Health Dept recommended masks to keep students safe and in school. pic.twitter.com/tmT3AASOWm— Caitlin Knute-KSHB 41 News (@CKnuteKSHB) August 5, 2021