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OLATHE, Kan. – The first students in Johnson County go back to school in three weeks.

A renewed debate on mask mandates will follow them into the classroom. Metro school districts are already laying out their guidelines, which aren’t always in agreement with parents’ viewpoints.

The ongoing debate spilled into the latest Johnson County Commission meeting on Thursday morning, during which, passionate parents on both sides of the mask debate argued for and against the recommended mask requirements.

Last week, the Johnson County Health Department recommended that six districts require masks for non-vaccinated students. Administrators with districts in Olathe, Blue Valley, DeSoto, Spring Hill and Gardner-Edgerton chose to begin the year without required masks. Leaders with Shawnee Mission School District are expected to make a decision early next week.

“Masks are not perfect, but they do work,” Jennifer Robinson, a parent favoring masks in schools, said. “We need to listen to actual science.”

Dr. Sanmi Areola, Johnson County’s Health Director, told county commissioners and parents the mask issue is of extreme importance – and based on data from county health leaders – going back to school without masks is a recipe for disaster.

“When masks were mandated in July, rates of infection spiked. I’m asking that you take a look at the other side of things. Masking is just the next step to lockdowns,” Shara Collins, a parent opposing mask requirements, said.

“I ask you this – if it was your kid who was high-risk, what if you had to send that kid you’d spent your whole life protecting to school in this environment?” Ryan Zimmerman, a parent speaking in favor of the mandate, said. “Speak up. Don’t be selfish. Think of other people.

“Let’s get our public healthy instead of spreading fear about a virus that 99.8% of us have and will survive,” Laura Klingensmith, a parent opposed to the mandate, said. “In the end, I’m a parent, and I make the decision if my child wears a mask or not or is vaccinated or not.”