KCK school board votes to require masks in fall

The Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education voted Tuesday night to approve masks for all students, staff, parents and visitors when school resumes in the fall.

The board voted unanimously to approve the recommendation, which was presented by Stephen Linkous, district chief of staff, and recommended by the superintendent.

According to Linkous, masks also will be required on school buses.

The new rules also call for students and others who have any symptoms to stay home, he said.

The district will try to have social distancing wherever possible, but they will not guarantee everyone is three to six feet apart, according to Linkous. Social distancing is no longer required by health guidelines, he said.

Daily continuous cleaning of the district’s buildings will be maintained, with disinfection at night, he said.

Linkous said the district has a re-entry team that meets monthly and can bring back any changes to the board for the policy in case COVID rates change.

This fall, teachers here will teach only in-person students, Linkous said.

Virtual learning will be offered to 50 elementary, 50 middle school and 200 high school students through Greenbush, a Kansas education service center based near Pittsburg, Kansas.

Dr. Anna Stubblefield, superintendent, said the numbers are the district’s guarantees for the number of students, but if there are more students than 50, they will work with them.

Students who participate in virtual learning would enroll through the district’s student services, Linkous said, but there would not be a district teacher checking in with them every day and making sure they are on task.

Also, he said teachers this year will not try to be teaching children in person at the same time as teaching students remotely on computers.

He said students would be expected to complete a semester before they have a chance to change the learning mode. They wanted students to stay on track, he said.

There is also a quarantine policy. If students are absent because of quarantine or a long-term illness, the students will be able to check with the district’s Canvas website to check for their assignments and other information.

This fall, campuses will be able to have outdoor activities and athletics, he said.

They would like smaller numbers at events such as open houses and back-to-school events, he said, to reduce the risk. For example, a school might hold an event for sophomores, another event for juniors.

The state athletic guidelines do not have requirements for masking outdoors, he said. Spectators would be permitted to attend athletic and school activities, he said. Spectators who are outdoors would not have to wear masks, but if they are indoors, masks would be required. Linkous said these are his recommendations, but board decisions.

Fine arts and physical education classes would have mitigations and adaptations in place according to local health department guidelines, he said.

Linkous said more information is expected to come out from the Kansas State High School Athletic Association next week on guidance for sports and activities.

Linkous said the district will be giving students an internet device to use for virtual learning, and there is a plan to provide internet service.

Wanda Brownlee Paige, board member, asked if there was a backup plan, and Linkous said if they were told to go back into remote learning, it might not be as bad this time because of the Canvas system the district is now using. It would be easier to keep track of student progress, he said.

After a question from Dr. Valdenia Winn, board member, Dr. Stubblefield said remote learning is not being considered at this time, as it isn’t allowed for any district in Kansas. The state allows virtual learning from Greeenbush. In the case the entire class has to quarantine, however, teachers would be prepared, Dr. Stubblefield said.

Linkous said the district plans for 100 percent in-person attendance, minus the students who choose to go virtually to Greenbush.

When asked about the district’s desk shields for students, Linkous said the district now is working on a plan, getting input from principals for district practices on how they are implemented.

Dr. Stacey Yeager, a board member, asked if there was a way to pool resources for the students at seven district schools who wear uniforms. She said she applauded the district for purchasing school supplies for every student and having them available in class from day one.

In other action, the school board reorganized on Tuesday, and Randy Lopez was re-elected board president.

Dr. Winn nominated the vice president, Paige, for re-election. Janey Humphries nominated Yolanda Clark for vice president. Another nomination was made for Maxine Drew for vice president.

The board voted three in favor of Paige, and four against, with those in favor including Lopez, Dr. Winn and Paige.

The board then voted 5-2 in favor of Clark as vice president, with Paige and Dr. Winn voting no.

Lopez thanked Paige for her service as vice president this past year, and said he learned a lot from her guiding and co-leading the board and district.

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