Valley Center to require masks starting Friday

Coronavirus in Kansas

VALLEY CENTER, Kan. (KSNW) – Beginning Friday, Sept. 3, masks will be required for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, while inside USD 262 Valley Center Public School buildings during the school day.

The following message was sent to Valley Center parents/families. The message is published in its entirety below:

Thank you for your patience and support as we made our way through the month of August. We
have several things to celebrate this school year. Even with multiple success stories, the ability to
continue operating as we have has become increasingly more difficult and the number of
disruptions to learning is increasing.

The purpose of this communication is to announce an update to our health protocols. Due to the
continued, increasing challenges across the district, we find it necessary to implement a
temporary, districtwide mask requirement effective September 3, 2021. Masks will be required
for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, while inside USD 262 Valley Center Public
School buildings during the school day. Examples of appropriate masks are non-medical
disposable masks or cloth masks that have two or more layers, fit properly, and do not have
inner filter pockets or exhalation valves/vents.

Students and staff have the option to remove their masks while eating or when outdoors. We
will require masks students and staff during athletics, fine arts, and physical education classes,
practices, rehearsal, and contests unless students are actively exercising, rehearsing, or
performing. Students and staff may be exempt from the requirement based on disability or a
signed, medical exemption from a medical provider (MD, DO, ARNP, PA).

Why Require Masks Now?
• As we entered the third week of the school year, we have exceeded our greatest number
of COVID-19 positive cases at any given time since the start of the pandemic. Near the
end of last week, there were 13 confirmed positive cases in our district (staff members
and students). Today, there are 45. We have identified more high-risk contacts than at
any time since the start of the pandemic. The total number of current high-risk close
contacts has exceeded 330 students which are spread out throughout the district. Two
of our buildings have greater than 10% of the student population who are identified as
high-risk contacts.
• Due to difficulties in sustaining our daily testing option, we were recently forced to
suspend the “test to stay” program for high risk contacts, which means many of our
students are missing valuable learning opportunities. In order to restart the daily
testing program, the number of high-risks contacts needs to be reduced, which can be
achieved by masking. When all individuals are masked properly, most contacts are
considered low risk.
• Kansas legislators passed a bill this last session that significantly limits remote learning
options for students who are ill, quarantined, school-excluded, or those who wish to
choose remote learning due to health-related concerns.
• The district’s transportation department is dealing with a shortage of drivers because of
positive cases and we run the risk of this impacting our ability to run all routes.
• Officials from the Sedgwick County Health Department have provided guidance in light of
rising cases and the critical level of patients in our local hospitals. The officials strongly
recommend requiring masks to help reduce the spread across our community

Help Maintain In-Person Learning
We understand our families and staff may have varied opinions regarding masks, individual
freedoms, and the health crisis. While there may not be common ground on those issues, yet
most agree that in-person learning works best for the majority of students. We must do
everything we can to stay open and keep our students and staff safe. Decisions like these are not
taken lightly and are important. Reflecting our “Empty Chair Philosophy” we must consider the
well-being of all of our students and staff.
We ask for your patience, understanding, and kindness while we endure this period of increased
cases. Please know that we will be monitoring cases and information daily and will make
decisions based upon numbers of positive COVID 19 cases. We are applying lessons learned from
last year and plan to have a fluid approach to decisions based on the data we have available.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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