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KCPS students, staff could be required to wear masks at school

No vote taken at Wednesday board meeting
kcps board meeting.jpeg
Posted at 7:46 PM, Jul 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-21 23:35:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools students and staff could be required to wear masks at school, regardless of vaccination status.

Sara Williams, the district's COVID-19 response coordinator, made the recommendation Wednesday night at the Board of Education’s meeting, but no votes were expected on the issue.

"Right now we’re looking very closely at what’s happening in our community with the delta variant and also just what’s going on in other school districts around us," Williams said.

Williams told the board that the Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department recommends "universal masking in schools with the surge in cases," according to a KCPS tweet.

Williams also recommended COVID-19 testing sites at every school, as well as random testing with parent or guardian permission.

"So if there is a case that happens to pop up, we’ll be ready for quarantine or isolation," she said, "and then also leaning on the back end of that so any kids that would happen to miss days because they need to be home because of either of illness or because of the need to quarantine, we’ll be ready for that as well."

District officials currently are reviewing guidelines with "community health leaders" and are seeking input from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri State High Schools Activities Association.

"Safety is, and always has been, our priority," the district tweeted. "That means we’ll need strategies like masking, social distancing and cleaning to protect our students."

Current KCPS protocols require masks for those who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The district expects to inform families of what to expect for the 2021-22 school year by early August.

Jason Roberts, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the teacher's union backs any plan that follows the science.

"It’s my opinion that the mask mandate needs to be dictated by science," Roberts said. "So if the science, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], if the Kansas City Health Department states that there should be a mandate for vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees, then I fully support that."

Roberts also agreed that teachers and staff should return to in-person learning after a mostly virtual learning model during last school year.

"I think teachers are really excited and staff are really excited to get back in person and to do the work of the classroom with their students one-on-one," he said.

KCPS parents KSHB 41 News spoke with had differing opinions on whether masks should be required for their children.

"I’m going to send her to the school in a mask regardless, only because she has two younger siblings, and I don’t want them to get sick either," Tanika Bard said.

Another parent, Shanika Williams, has other plans.

"No because not all children likes to wear the masks," Williams said.

Parent Tiffany Williams said she feels it should be up to the children if they want to wear a mask in class.

"I know it can be hard trying to talk through your mask," Tiffany Williams said.

The KCPS School Board of Education will meet next month to vote on the recommendations. Classes begin on Aug. 23.

Other districts in the metro, however, have already taken a stance on masking. The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools Board of Education unanimously voted Tuesday to require face coverings for students, staff, parents and visitors for the upcoming school year.

Masks will not be required in any capacity for the Blue Valley School District, despite recommendations stating otherwise from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.