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Shawnee Mission School District retains mask requirement, despite protest

SMSD Mask Protest
Posted at 9:23 PM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 23:50:02-04

SHAWNEE MISSION, Kan. — Unlike other school districts in the metro, the Shawnee Mission School District will continue to require students and staff members to wear masks in school until the end of the year.

The subject prompted parents and community members to gather outside of the Shawnee Mission Center for Academic Achievement on Monday ahead of the district's board of education meeting.

“I am fighting for my children's right to breathe in school,” Kristin Butler, who has two children in the school district, said.

Butler and about two dozen other parents held signs protesting the district’s mask policy. The demonstration was organized after the district denied two requests for public hearings to challenge the mask rule.

“Some of the kids want to continue to wear masks and that’s totally fine," Sara Crafton, a parent who supports the district lifting its requirement, said. "At the end of the day, since vaccines are available, masks should not be required but allowed for those who want them."

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance saying that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to social distance or wear masks outdoors and indoors.

Only those who are 12-years-old and older currently are eligible to receive the vaccine, which is why Julia Garrard wants the mask requirement to remain in place. Her son Oskar is 11 years old.

“Seems like it’s a no-brainer," Garrard said. "There’s only 10 more days (left of school),”. Come on, what’s the big deal? You get vaccinated and you wear a mask for your community.”

A spokesperson for the school district said its mask mandates will continue until the end of the year. The school district will likely re-evaluate its policies ahead of the upcoming school year after seeking guidance from the Johnson County Department Health and Environment and reviewing CDC recommendations.

“We’re hopeful maybe this summer, younger kids will be eligible,” district spokesperson David Smith said. “Clearly the way to move past the pandemic is to get more and more people vaccinated, including younger children, so we just have to work to get through that.”