Jackson County to consider mask mandate for school buildings

Education

FILE – A student wears a face mask while doing work at his desk at the Post Road Elementary School, in White Plains, N.Y., in this Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, file photo. U.S. health officials say the highly contagious delta version of the coronavirus is behind changes to mask guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced that fully vaccinated people should resume wearing masks indoors if they live in areas where the virus is surging. CDC officials said new information about the spread of the delta variant forced them to reverse course. The agency also said teachers and students everywhere should go back to wearing masks in schools. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, FIle)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Executive Frank White is recommending a mask mandate at K-12 public schools in the county.

Jackson County Health Department Acting Director Ray Dlugolecki and Emergency Management Coordinator Troy Schulte support the recommendation to implement a public health order for masking at schools.

A majority of the Jackson County Legislature must approve in order to enact the order. The legislature meets Monday.

If approved, the school mask rule would take effect Jan. 18 at the earliest and would remain in effect until 6 p.m. Feb. 3.

White said the order aligns with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the county health department. White said the county is seeing a significant surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations from the delta and omicron variant and stagnant vaccination rates.

Jackson County Health Department data shows the overall percent positivity is 35.5% for the week of Jan. 2, but the percent positivity for ages 10-19 is above 40%.

“We know how valuable in-person learning is for students, but maintaining that practice is becoming increasingly difficult as schools struggle to have enough teachers in the classroom and more children are getting sick at an alarming rate,” White said.

“Masking wearing has proven to be an effective way to mitigate the spread of the virus and will help keep students, teachers, staff and visitors safe in school buildings. Our vigilant masking efforts, combined with vaccinations for everyone ages 5 and older, will be key to reducing the risk of COVID-19 spread in schools.”

Jackson County does not have a public mask mandate at this time after the legislature voted to immediately end its previous one on Nov. 12. The Jackson County Legislature debated last month to bring back a mask mandate, but it failed 5-4.

However, some school districts in Jackson County do have mask rules in place.

The Lee’s Summit school board voted 6-1 to require masking in all district facilities starting Jan. 7 through Feb. 3. The board will revisit the decision at that time.

The Raytown school board voted Jan. 10 to require a face mask indoors for all students, staff and visitors beginning Jan. 11 and effective until Feb. 15, 2022.

In Kansas City, Missouri, which is under its own jurisdiction separate from Jackson County, there is also a mask mandate for school buildings. It began on Jan. 10 and will expire at 6 p.m. Feb. 3 unless the council takes up action again to rescind or extend it.

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