OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — As COVID cases across Johnson County begin to rise, the Shawnee Mission School District will review masking guidelines for the remainder of the school year. 

The school board will host a special meeting to discuss masking protocols on Monday, April 18.

In February, the school board approved a COVID mitigation plan that allowed masking to be optional if the number of students testing positive for COVID in each building remained below 3% and the building absentee rate remained below 5%. 

Seven elementary schools in the district returned to masking last Monday. During a school board meeting later that night, board member Jamie Borgman motioned to remove mask mandates regardless of illness or absentee rates for all schools within the district. 

“JCDHE [Johnson County Department of Health and Environment] says we are [in the] green, yet we have seven schools that are masked. I just feel like we’ve reached a point where a mandatory mask mandate is not in the best interest [of the district] or necessary,” Borgman said.   

Board President Mary Sinclair said she feels mitigation based on absentee and illness rates in each school building is the most effective way to determine if students should be masked or not. 

“I personally don’t feel like we have something to replace it, and rescinding it feels like it’s not a direction that encompasses all the needs of our students and our staff,” Sinclair said. 

Now the board will review two potential masking options to finish out the school year. The board will consider the option to remove masking requirements and encourage families to self-monitor for symptoms of illness. 

The board will also consider temporarily returning to the mask requirement if COVID related absences exceed 5%. If an individual school building exceeds the 5% threshold, students in that building will return to masking until COVID-related absences drop below 5% for at least one week before moving to optional masking.

Under both masking protocol plans, individuals who test positive for COVID will be required to stay home for five days and wear a mask for six to ten days once they return to school.

The school board will host a special meeting to discuss masking on Monday, April 18 at 5 p.m. at the Center for Academic Achievement, 8200 W. 71st Street. 

If approved, the masking requirements would go into effect on Tuesday, April 19 and be in effect for the rest of the school year.