Some School Districts Discussing Return To Mask Mandates

Students and staff in the Kansas City public school district will likely be required to wear masks when school starts next month because of an uptick in COVID-19 cases in the region, a district official said.

No final decision has been made but Sara Williams, a COVID-19 coordinator for the district, told the school board Wednesday she is recommending students and staff wear masks — even if they have been vaccinated — when classes begin Aug. 23, The Kansas City Star reported.

In Columbia and St. Joseph, some teachers are also urging school leaders to consider requiring masks for the upcoming school year, as schools face an increase in COVID-19 cases about a month before most schools are scheduled to reopen.

Williams said requiring masks would follow guidance from Kansas City health officials.

“We all know we’re in an upsurge with the delta variant. So we want to do everything we can to keep students, staff, families, communities safe, so that we are fully open,” Williams told the board. A final recommendation is likely at the next school board meeting.

A group of 100 Kansas City area physicians signed a letter recently asking school districts to require for all students under the age of 12, who are not currently eligible for the vaccine,

In Columbia, the teachers union's COVID Advisory Committee has asked the district to require everyone to wear masks this school year, The Columbia Tribune reported.

District spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the recommendation will be taken under advisement but district officials will consider input from several sources before making any decisions.

The district is requiring masks for elementary students during summer school. The union wants that requirement to continue until elementary age children can be vaccinated.

Union President Noelle Gilzow said she is prepared for some resistance from parents if masks are required again.

“I am hoping to appeal to their desire to have students in school,” Gilzow said. “Masks can help us stay in school.”

School district officials in St. Joseph are watching to see if increasing COVID-19 cases there will force the district to reconsider its current policy of making masks optional for students, KQ2 reported.

“We were hoping to start this school year being mask less and being able to be as close to normal as possible,” said Tami Pasley, school board president. “Obviously, we’re disappointed.”

J. Eric Simmons, president of the St. Joseph district's teachers union, said he agrees with recent guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics that recommend everyone over the age of 2 wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status.

District superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl said the AAP's mask guidance has “pluses and minuses” and has become political.

St. Joseph School District board members plan to announce early next month if they will change the current policy before classes start Aug. 23.