Blue Valley Board of Education votes to extend mask mandate to grades 9-12

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Blue Valley Board of Education voted to extend the indoor masking policy to students in grades 9-12 as well as those in the 18-21 program.

The board voted to extend the Johnson County Board of Commissioners masking requirements to those grade levels by a vote of 6 to 1 during Monday night’s meeting.

Parents weighed in on both sides of the issue, with some like Brooke Lew saying that school districts shouldn’t mandate masks.

“The bottom line is you don’t have a say in my child’s medical decision, none of you do! The decision to wear a mask for this upcoming school year should be up to the parents,” she said.

Others, like Jeff Nessel disagreed, saying that masks are necessary to protect the health and safety of students.

“This is not about individuals. It’s about society. Pandemics are not individual actions. Pandemics can be stopped through collective actions,” he said.

Blue Valley Board of Education Member Patrick Hurley said the ultimate goal was to keep children in school.

“I want to give everybody in this room and everybody that’s listening a little bit of a pat on the back. Tonight, I think we saw the most respectful display from both sides that we could ask for. Remembering that we want to keep butts in seats, that’s our job, weighing risk and reward from both sides, I will be supporting the motion on the table,” he said.

The board will revisit the masking guidance at least quarterly, with the option of reviewing it at any time they choose.

After last week’s Johnson County Board of Commissioners vote to require masking for all students pre-K through 6th grade, Blue Valley instituted a mask mandate for K-8 in its schools, but high schoolers were not initially included in that guidance.

Dr. Elizabeth Holzschuh, epidemiologist with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, said that children are getting sick with the delta variant.

“We are seeing more kids hospitalized and more individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. In fact, I was just looking at the numbers in the metro region, July was our third highest month for pediatric hospitalizations in the metro for COVID-19.”

Parents got the option for 100% virtual schooling during enrollment last spring, but for students who chose in-person learning, the options for a quarantine aren’t easy.

Kansas lawmakers made changes that mean remote learning is not a ‘plan B’ for students who chose in-person learning for the year. If a student ends up in quarantine, they cannot just go virtual.

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