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USD 259 ‘strongly recommend’ all students and employees to wear masks

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The largest school district in Kansas discussed changes to its current COVID-19 protocol during its meeting Monday.

In a 4-3 vote, the USD 259 Board of Education approved to “strongly recommend” mask use for all students and employees in the district, regardless of their vaccination status. Masks will be required for all visitors entering any USD 259 buildings.

“I think we have the ability to start the school year safely if we follow all the safety protocols,” said USD 259 School Board President Stan Reeser. “And the board tonight said the Superintendent and others would keep us up to date on data.”

Data will be COVID infections, numbers and possible exposures. The district will continue to monitor WPS data and public health requirements. Changes and concerns will come back to the BOE for discussion and potential action.

Some doctors in the audience urged board members to start a mask mandate and were disappointed in the decision.

“But this could just have easily been worded as required masks,” said family physician Steve Davis.

Some parents urged board members to go to a mandate as well.

“But we do know that masking has worked,” said Katie Glover, mother of two USD 259 students. “Kids that can’t be vaccinated need to be protected.”

Ernestine Krehbiel, Stan Reeser, Mia Turner and Sheril Logan voted in favor of the administrative recommendation. Ben Blankley, Julie Hedrick and Ron Rosales all voted against it.

All students who ride a bus to school will be required to wear a mask while on the bus.

Superintendent Alicia Thompson sent the following message to parents/families on Wednesday. The message is published in its entirety below:

Good evening WPS parents and caregivers,

At tonight’s Board of Education meeting our elected leaders voted to adopt our COVID safety protocols for the 21-22 school year. In addition, the BOE received the administrative recommendation that I shared with you last week – that we strongly encourage every employee and student to wear a face mask as the school year begins, regardless of vaccination status, and that all visitors will be required to wear a mask when they are inside of our school buildings, regardless of vaccination status. In addition, due to federal requirements, all students who ride a bus to school will be required to wear a mask while on the bus.

This protocol will go into effect immediately. In addition to these measures, our district also has an extensive health and safety protocol in place to maintain safe schools and allow both staff and students to maximize teaching and learning time in schools, which experts across the country say is the best-possible place for our students to be. To learn more about our COVID protocol and other health and safety measures, please visit our web site at www.usd259.org/WPSadvance.

The BOE also reviewed our WPS COVID protocol, the guidelines we will follow should a student or staff member have symptoms of COVID, have received a positive test result, or have been exposed to someone who has. Those guidelines are attached to this email. If you would like to schedule free, no-cost COVID testing for your student or any member of your household, you can do so at 973-4790.

Your feedback told us that you place the highest level of importance on safe learning environments for your students. We do too! You can learn more about our full COVID safety plan by visiting https://www.usd259.org/WPSadvance.

Our WPS community is ready to welcome 6th, 9th and 10th graders back to school Wednesday, and all WPS students on Thursday, August 12. I look forward to a remarkable year of learning in the Wichita Public Schools!

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