OLATHE, Kan. — Commissioners in Johnson County, Kansas, are buckling in for another round of discussion on masks.
The proposal before the board during Thursday morning’s meeting would require masking for elementary-age students in local school districts. The new public health order would put the mandate in effect in both public and private schools.
But opponents tell FOX4 that Thursday morning’s vote might not be so straightforward.
For example, the Shawnee Mission School District has already mandated masking for elementary-aged kids who are too young to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. But other districts in the county, including in Blue Valley and Olathe, currently say masks are optional for all students.
So if this county health order passes, the question will be: Will districts fall in line? Or will they tell the county “you can’t tell us what to do.”
The proposed health order, signed off by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, targets younger students.
The proposed order reads in part: “Masks or other face coverings are required for all faculty, staff, and visitors while inside a school building where any students through and including 6th grade attend class, unless actively eating or drinking.”
And, addressing middle schools: “This requirement includes children in higher grades who attend school in buildings where children in 6th or lower grades also attend school unless 6th graders are physically separated from higher grades throughout the school day.”
Johnson County Commissioner Charlotte O’Hara said she gets a lot of questions from residents asking questions about masks in schools.
O’Hara is planning to vote against the health order, which she feels lacks concrete authority.
“They’re kicking it up to the board so that the districts can have some political cover because they’re getting slammed from both sides. They really are,” O’Hara said.
“Why are we doing this? The school districts already have authority. And even if we pass this mandate, according to our legal staff, the districts would retain their authority to opt out of it,” O’Hara added.
“It’s over. We need to just move on,” O’Hara said.
This is the same discussion people saw happening when mask mandates were originally repealed. With school districts and municipalities having different and separate policies on masking.
The Johnson County Commission meeting starts at the County Administration Building in Olathe at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.