3 districts continue mask mandates

Landry Arnold, 6, a kindergarten student at Lewis & Clark Elementary, holds his mother Jenni’s hand as the two head toward the kindergarten entrance for the first day of school Tuesday, Sept. 8, in Liberty. Districts will end the school year, continuing to wear masks.

Kearney, Liberty and Smithville school districts will hold the course and continue to require masks for the remainder of the school year.

Todd Schuetz, superintendent of the Smithville School District, said district leadership continues to evaluate information related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the Centers for Disease Control provided guidance and the Clay County Public Health Center allowed the emergency order to expire May 14, there was no new guidance for public schools. Schuetz said the health center has not altered any of its recommendations for schools.

“We are going to be status quo as far as maintaining the current health guidelines in the schools,” he said. “We are out with an early release May 27. That’s not that much longer. We have also been evaluating summer school as well. However, no decisions have been made yet.”

According to Dallas Ackerman, the Liberty Public Schools spokesman, the district released a statement at the end of last week. While the district leadership is aware of the expiration of the public health emergency order, the update does not include any changes to the schools.

“With only two weeks remaining in the 2020-2021 school year, LPS will join other peer metro school districts and continue with our current mitigation efforts, which include having students wearing masks while in district facilities,” according to the statement. This will remain through the last day of school Friday, May 28.

However, the district is not sure how the summer school session will look in June and beyond.

“We would then expect to receive additional guidance to be shared later this month,” per the statement. “As we have shared with you throughout this past school year, we are very appreciative of the patience, grace, and flexibility that our students, staff, and families have shown as we have collectively navigated this unique and challenging school year.”

For the Kearney School District, the message is similar. From the beginning of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the district leadership has focused on protecting the health and wellness of students and staff.

Although the county health center and the CDC now allow fully-vaccinated people to resume pre-pandemic activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, the recommendation is that “schools continue to use the current COVID-19 prevention strategies for the 2020-2021 school year,” according to the CDC.

“This means that our face mask mandate will remain in place through the end of the school year Wednesday, May 26, for students, staff and visitors. In addition, the quarantine guidance for unmasked people has not changed. Unmasked students and adults who are not vaccinated will be required to quarantine for 10-14 days if they come in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” from a message to Kearney families sent by Ray Weikal, the district’s communications director.

The CDC indicated it will update its guidance for schools in the coming weeks. This updated guidance will inform the planning for the upcoming summer school and academic year.

“We are awaiting further guidance from the Clay County Public Health Center before making that decision. We will continue to follow the health center’s guidance as we have throughout this pandemic. Our goal is always to ensure the health and wellness of our students and staff while providing excellent educational experiences,” Weikal said.

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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