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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Blue Valley school board has voted to bring middle and high school students back to their classrooms full time, but they’ll have to wait several weeks.

The board voted 6-1 Monday night to have older students return on March 23 as long as the district is still in the green or yellow phase of its gating criteria.

The district is currently in yellow gating criteria, which calls for hybrid learning for older students. But the board voted Monday to adapt its gating criteria to allow for full-time in-person learning in the yellow phase, starting in the 4th quarter (March 23).

Face masks, frequent sanitizing and social distancing as much as possible will still be required when kids return to their classrooms. Any students who opted for full virtual learning at the start of the year will remain virtual.

Blue Valley Superintendent Dr. Tonya Merrigan noted that Johnson County’s COVID-19 cases have been dropping recently.

“They’re the best numbers we’ve seen in a long time,” she said Monday night.

She also told board members that COVID-19 testing is available to all students and staff whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.

The district has also started administering the COVID-19 vaccine to any building staff who want it. They hope to have the first round of vaccinations finished by roughly March 4 and second doses done by March 18.

Merrigan said that date for finishing staff vaccinations was a factor in her March 23 recommendation. With the start of a new quarter coming just a few days after vaccinations should be done, the Blue Valley superintendent said it would be a “natural transition.”

A few Blue Valley board members, however, said they wished they could bring students back sooner, but ultimately there was only one vote against the motion.

A few other districts in the Kansas City metro will also be bringing their students back to school in March.

The Olathe school board voted last week to bring its middle and high schoolers back to in-person classes on March 1. Kansas City Public Schools announced late last month that its students will also return to classrooms in March.

Gardner-Edgerton’s secondary students have started a hybrid schedule this week, and the Spring Hill school board also voted to bring all grade levels back to in-person learning, as of last week.