The USD 462 Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind the district’s face mask requirement at its Monday meeting in light of improved COVID-19 numbers in the district, although the rule could go back into effect if the situation changes.
The vote was 6-0, USD 462 Superintendent Rick Shaffer said. A seventh BOE member, who was not at the meeting Monday, later told school officials that they also would have voted to rescind the requirement had they been in attendance.
Masks became optional Tuesday for students and staff at both Central Elementary and Central Junior/Senior High School, according to a letter posted to the district’s Facebook page Monday night. The letter said masks may still need to be worn when required for field trips and extracurricular activities, in accordance with KSHSAA recommendations.
The district will continue to support personal hygiene, symptom monitoring and daily sanitizing protocols. The letter said that the decision is subject to change at any time in response to changing conditions.
Shaffer told the CourierTraveler on Tuesday that the decision was made with guidance from the City-Cowley County Health Department. There have been zero COVID-19 cases among students and staff at Central schools for the past four weeks, he said. District officials are cautiously optimistic right now, and will be paying attention to any COVID spread that might come about in the near future, Shaffer said.
Shaffer said the response to rescinding the rule has mostly been positive, although he had received one comment against it as of Tuesday morning. When masks were required at the beginning if the school year, Shaffer said the reaction was split almost evenly between people who were for it and those who were against it.
“One thing we felt here was that, if masks allowed us to be face-to-face, we were for it,” he said.
The district does offer online learning, although a small minority of students — fewer than 10 per building — are currently participating. USD 462 has around 300 students total.
Other districts have issued their own rules for mask wearing.
In Dexter, students and staff have been allowed to opt out of wearing a mask all year, a district spokesperson said.
In Cedar Vale, parents have the right to determine if their children will wear a mask to school, according to a copy of the reopening guide on the district’s website.
In Udall, masks are required for students and staff, although medical exemptions can be requested, according to the district reopening guide.
The Winfield and Arkansas City school district continue to require mask usage.