Kansas City, MO

Parents and school officials draw battle lines over masking requirements for upcoming school year

Evan Crosby

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Kansas City, Mo. - With the upcoming 2021 - 2022 school year fast approaching, many Kansas City area school districts have either already issued mask mandates or recommendations - or they are currently under consideration, given the surge in new COVID-19 cases over the summer.

However, parents, just like school officials, are on both sides of the issue as to whether schools should reinstate mask mandates for students and staff. In fact, those disagreements have often been on full display at school board meetings over the summer as administrators and parents argue over proposed mask mandates.

At a Blue Valley School Board meeting last month, around 50 parents were in attendance to voice their opinions on the issue of whether masks should be mandated or recommended for the next school year. The overwhelming majority of parents attending the meeting spoke out against reinstating a mask mandate.

One parent, Michelle Mitchell, told the school board, “There’s no more mask mandate in the county. It doesn’t make any sense,” according to KCTV.

Although, there were some parents who pressured the school board to add more restrictions, including a mask mandate. Melissa Gener, an MD, read a letter signed by 100 Kansas City area doctors who are urging school districts to require masks for younger children who are not yet old enough to get vaccinated.

However, the crowd started interrupting Gener as she read the letter with shouts of, “No, no, no,” according to KCTV. Gener continued reading the letter over their voices.

The Blue Valley School District eventually decided to only recommend, not mandate, that students and staff were masks.

The Shawnee Mission School District held its own contentious school board meeting late last month as well to discuss masking requirements. The spirited public discussion lasted for nearly three hours - and featured parents and county health experts sharing their differing views.

According to KSHB, some protestors gathered outside the meeting room and held up signs in the windows with phrases like "parental rights" and "optional masks."

Sarah Crafton, whose children attend school in the district, told the board members, "COVID and other serious illnesses are not going away. Do we mask forever? Our children need and deserve an in-person educational experience free of masks."

However, Elizabeth Holzschuh, Johnson County's epidemiologist, called the delta variant a "game changer."

Holzschuh told the school board, "These are rates we have not seen since we were coming down off of the big peak over winter. Our present positive is something that we have not seen since last fall."

The Shawnee Mission School Board ended up voting 6-1 to mandate masks for unvaccinated elementary school students - and "strongly recommended" for unvaccinated middle and high school students.

Masks will not be required for outdoor activities. However, anyone riding on a school bus will be required to wear face masks (regardless of vaccination status), as well as visitors to elementary schools.

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