Masks in schools? Many Kansas school districts looking into what lies ahead

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – With CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) mask guidance updated, there are questions surrounding if masks are currently mandated or recommended in public schools.

“At this time, we are planning to encourage but not require masks be worn when school starts,” said Amy Pavlacka, Valley Center Public Schools director of communications. “However, as you know, information and guidance is changing quickly so our plans could change too.”

The largest school district in the state is Wichita Public Schools.

“At this time, masks are still optional for anyone who wants to wear them,” said USD 259 spokesperson Susan Arensman. “We will continue to evaluate and work through our planning processes.”

Local school boards will make the call on mask-wearing. They get guidance from the state board of education and local health leaders.

“All of us whether it’s school kids, school teachers, everybody in the sense of trying to help this community get this thing calmed down I think we need to go back to masks,” said Sedgwick County Health Officer Dr. Garold Minns. “That is my personal opinion, if we give a recommendation, we are saying masks are still a good idea.”

Newton Public Schools says its policy could change at any time as they review the latest CDC and local and state recommendations. For now, masks are optional.

Valley Center says masks are currently encouraged but not required. Maize Public Schools says it will soon give guidance to those in the district.

Salina Public Schools will require face coverings in all buildings. The school board made the decision during a special meeting Tuesday evening. USD 305 Superintendent Linn Exline sent a message to employees notifying them of the policy, which is part of the district’s safe return to in-person instruction plan.

Betty Arnold is on the state board of education. Arnold says the board will meet in about a week to talk over what it will recommend.

“We probably will be providing guidelines for the districts to follow,” said Arnold. “How do we keep our students safe? How do we keep our staff safe? Those questions will need to be answered.”

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