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Former SMSD teacher says mask decision 'pushed me out'

He now teaches in his home
JOSIAH ENYART smsd teacher.jpg
Posted at 4:00 AM, Sep 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-20 08:49:30-04

OVERLAND PARK, KS — Some Kansas City-area parents have chosen to take their students out of public and private schools this year, in favor of teaching them at home.

One of those parents resigned from his teaching job in the Shawnee Mission School District and is now teaching his children, and other families' children, in his home.

Josiah Enyart had been teaching elementary school for years.

Enyart said he was planning to teach at Comanche Elementary School in SMSD again this year, but the district’s decision to require masks for all students changed that.

“I don't think the kids needed them, and so I was looking forward to them going and having a normal year and being able to be kids and learn,” Enyart said. “I can't imagine what a first grader’s thinking when they look up seeing a teacher not wearing a mask and they have to wear one. So that was really the big thing that that pushed me out.”

Enyart calls the flu a "bigger health concern" for his kids than COVID-19. Doctors with the University of Kansas Health System maintain that COVID-19 and influenza are completely different viruses, and carry very different risks. Specifically, COVID-19 can cause multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) and long-haul covid symptoms — neither occur with the flu.

“As a parent, you do everything you can to protect your kids, but we take risks every day,” Enyart said. “You know, I drive in a car, we could get hit by somebody else in a car. So I don't want to stop my kids from living, I don't want to stop my kids from growing naturally and healthy.”

Enyart resigned at the end of July, days after Shawnee Mission's school board voted to require masks for elementary school students. He was assessed a $1,000 “liquidation fee.”

The district said he's one of 24 teachers who resigned after the May 31 deadline to do so. Four of those teacher’s fees were waived, which is common in the case of a move or illness. Enyart requested that his fee be waived, but the board denied that request.

A GoFundMe page was created to help cover that cost, and people donated more than $27,000. Enyart will use some of that money to buy materials to teach from his home.

He's one of many parents who've made similar decisions during the pandemic. Jacklynn Walters is with Midwest Parent Educators, a local group that supports parents who choose to homeschool.

"Last year, I heard a lot of parents saying, ‘I'm just doing it for one year,’” Walters said. “I'm hearing different stories this year. It's more, ‘I'm going to pull them and I'm not sure that I'm ever going to go back.’”

Walters said the uptick in home schooling comes from parents wanting more say in their children's education.

“I also know that some parents just felt like they weren't being heard and wanted to make sure that they were allowing their children to not have to wear a mask if the child and or parent wished them not to have to," Walters said.

In Kansas, homeschoolers have to register as non-accredited private schools. The Kansas Department of Education said for this school year, more than 1,000 new registrations have been made in that category statewide.

Homeschools don't have to be registered in Missouri, so there's no tracking for similar numbers.

Enyart would not confirm how many children he's currently teaching in his home, but said that dozens of parents who were looking for an alternative to public school reached out to him. He said he can't help them all and wishes there were more options for parents.

He said he hopes in the near future that his ability to help more families will become a reality.

Walters is running to represent Shawnee’s Ward 4 on the Shawnee City Council. That election is Nov. 2.