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USD 259 to require masks starting next week

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – After studying recent guidance from state and local public health experts, Wichita Public Schools is going to a mask mandate in school buildings for anyone three and older.

“So we have COVID in schools, you heard them in there talk about it,” said Dr. Chloe Steinshouer, who argued again to implement a mask mandate.

School board president Stan Reeser said the medical community had offered opinions, but a governor’s recommendation helped seal the deal.

“Two strong recommendations since August 9th since the DCD recommendations have come out,” said Reeser. “Governor Kelly spoke out and strongly encouraged school districts to mandate masks. And then we had our local health officials also come out with criteria of when you should be wearing your mask.”

That mask mandate will begin Monday, August 30, with some health exceptions and other exceptions for some special education classes.

The number of staff testing positive for COVID-19 in Wichita Public Schools is 51, while the number of students who tested positive is 194.

Out of 7,633 employees in Wichita Public Schools, 74 are currently in quarantine. In addition, more than 1,600 kids are considered quarantined. That timeline is from August nine to August 20.

The decision to mandate masks in a special agenda item Monday was a unanimous 6-0 vote with a board member staying at home because of illness.

KSN News also asked president Reeser about the 3-2 decision by the Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners recently to have no mask mandate in the county. Instead, the board voted to table a recommendation from the county health officer to consider implementing a county-wide mask mandate.

“I did not look at the 2-3, or, 3-2 Sedgwick County vote,” said Reeser. “What we wanted to look at was what the local health officials, medical staff was saying.”

Reeser also said starting the year, there was no way to get data on the number of COVID in the schools until testing began inside schools.

The district has done nearly 3.000 tests for COVID-19 since school began. The superintendent said there are nine schools right now considered “high demand” testing sites. The district has more than 90 buildings where testing could be done.

Wichita Public Schools will share mask mandate information with families on Tuesday.

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