Kearney schools move to masks optional effective Dec. 23

At a special session of the Kearney School Board Monday, Dec. 13, the board unanimously approved moving to masks optional in school buildings effective Dec. 23. While optional in school buildings, masks, per federal mandate, will still be required on buses. Similar polices were also approved in Liberty and Smithville districts at the end of 2021.

KEARNEY — As of Dec. 23, students and staff in Kearney school buildings will no longer be required to wear masks after the school board unanimously approved a revised 2021-22 Return to School Plan during a special session Monday, Dec. 13. While masks are no longer required indoors in school buildings, they are recommended and masks, per federal mandate, are still required on school buses.

The full return to learn plan and revisions are online at the school district website, {a href=”http://ksdr1.net/covid-19-updates/” target=”_blank”}ksdr1.net/covid-19-updates/.

The change in policy from required universal masking comes after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt sent cease and desist letters to school districts across Missouri ordering them to stop student masking requirements, quarantines and or other “health orders” related to COVID-19. The letters were sent following a Cole County Circuit Court judge’s ruling in Robinson vs. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The revised plan was recommended by Interim Superintendent Todd White, who, according to district release, said administrators have been working on updates in response input from stakeholders and the Robinson v. Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services case.

“From the beginning of the current school year, the district’s mitigation steps were determined by the need to protect the health and wellness of students, staff and visitors while simultaneously ensuring that in-person classes can continue uninterrupted. Universal indoor masking was a critical mitigation step because it helped keep kids in school in accordance with the county’s COVID-19 quarantine mandate,” states a district release.

“Public health authorities provided an exception that said if everyone is wearing a mask, then they would not qualify as a close contact. That matched up well with our goal to have in-person classes,” White said. “What has changed in that timeframe is the ability of a local health agency to mandate a quarantine.”

The school board will review and update, if needed, the plan on a monthly basis moving forward.

The news comes as the Clay County Public Health Board is set to meet virtually at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 16, to discuss recommendations for schools. Actions taken by the board may supersede school district changes like those made in Kearney and Smithville to make masks optional this week.

Those wanting to make public comment at the meeting can sign up at {a href=”http://clayhealth.com/187/Board-of-Health” target=”_blank”}clayhealth.com/187/Board-of-Health. A copy of the full meeting agenda is attached to the online version of this article at {a href=”http://mycouriertribune.com” target=”_blank”}mycouriertribune.com.

Clay County Public Health has reported nearly a 77% jump in new COVID-19 cases and a more than 45% increase in hospitalizations last week compared to the previous week.

The region’s public health directors, including Clay County’s Gary Zaborac, are asking Kansas City metro residents to continue the fight against COVID-19 by vaccinating eligible children and wearing a mask while in public and in school settings.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve encouraged a layered approach to protecting yourself and your family from COVID-19,” said Zaborac, director of the Clay County Public Health Center. “Vaccination offers a strong layer of protection for kids when combined with wearing a mask. Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or pharmacy to learn how to get the vaccine. You don’t need a prescription or referral – and it’s free. You can also call your local health department for more information.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at amanda.lubinski@mycouriertribune.com or 903-6001.

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