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SHAWNEE, Kan. — The latest mask mandate for all elementary schools in Johnson County, Kansas, not only impacts public schools but private schools, too.

But the head of Marantha Christian Academy said they were planning to handle the upcoming school year differently.

“This is a place where we really believe a parent should be able to make that choice for their children,” Head of School Janet Fogh said. “It worked for us. It’s worked well. We want to offer the same thing this year.”

Fogh said they documented a huge increase in enrollment because of the optional mask and in-person learning decision.

Optional masks will continue to be the case for grades 7-12, but for the younger students, Fogh said they are hoping to find an exemption.

“It allows for some exemptions in religious organizations,” Fogh said. “I think one of the things I’m focused on is, we are a religious school. We implement principles, in every classroom, in every single way, in everything we do. So as I’m looking at the ordinance from yesterday, I would like to say we could find a way to say that we’re exempt based on who we are as a school.”

From pre-K to 12th grade, students at Maranatha Christian Academy have been in the classroom throughout the entire pandemic and reported very few COVID-19 cases.

The school said it took all the necessary precautions to keep students safe, including social distancing, barriers, temperature checks and daily deep cleaning.

Leaders said the local private school is proof optional masking can be done successfully.

“That doesn’t mean we didn’t have some COVID cases among students and staff, but those students quarantined. But the school as a whole, we were here every single school day,” Fogh said. “We took a lot of preventative steps to try to ensure health, wellness and safety of our students, staff, and honestly, God blessed it.”