With unique mask policy, Spring Hill School District sees COVID cases spike, worrying some

Tracking Coronavirus

SPRING HILL, Kan. — It’s a COVID-19 outlier when compared to its neighbors.

That’s why some parents in the Spring Hill School District are feeling anxious as the district continues its policy allowing parents to opt-out of masking for students.

Officials in the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment have sent the district a letter expressing concerns about high case numbers.

The most recent numbers posted Tuesday show a significant decline in COVID-19 cases in Spring Hill, but those numbers contrast with the general trend concerning the health department.

Marvin Shaffer’s son is 11 years and 363 days old.

“His birthday present was going to be the vaccine, which is in two days,” Shaffer said.

Instead, his son got sick, Shaffer said.

“He started complaining about a sore throat yesterday afternoon, and today he had a fever and a sore throat. So I took him to get the COVID test,” Shaffer said.

The result of that test was positive, the Kansas dad said.

That case is part of the health department’s larger concerns. On Friday, the department shared a graph comparing COVID-19 case rates between Johnson County school districts. The outlier at the top was Spring Hill.

Johnson County health professionals suggested this unique aspect of the district’s mask policy was a cause:

“If pursuing a medical mask exemption, please have your student’s health care provider or parent/guardian complete the face mask medical exemption request form and submit it to your student’s school nurse.”

Heather Hardman is another parent in the district. Her 8-year-old son has asthma.

“It feels like, ‘What’s going on?’ What are we missing here that they can’t see those numbers and think maybe we should take a step back and just re-evaluate what we’re doing,” Hardman said.

“Well a lot of people aren’t speaking out because they have seen backlash from their families, from their neighbors. It’s pretty bad,” she added.

The district put out the following statement:

“Spring Hill School District administrators and Board of Education are constantly monitoring the situation. We have had some schools implement additional mitigation. At this time, there are no board action items scheduled related to COVID-19 mitigation.”

Shaffer said it’s little consolation now with his son out of school despite trying to be careful.

“I tell him, ‘Make sure you’re wearing your mask. Stay away from people who are not masked. And nothing against the people who are not masked, but we don’t want you to be within 6 feet if you can help it,” he said.

“He’s telling me they assign seats, and he’s assigned a seat next to unmasked people, which makes me really concerned,” Shaffer added.

As of Aug. 23, the district reported 443 mask exemption forms had been signed. An update to that number may be provided at the next school board meeting.

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