No Shawnee Mission schools require masks after the board changed the COVID-19 plan
No Shawnee Mission schools require masks after the board changed the COVID-19 plan

No Shawnee Mission schools require masks after the board changed the COVID-19 plan

At a special meeting Monday night, the Shawnee Mission unanimously approved the school board changes to the district’s COVID-19 remediation plan.

The vote had the immediate effect of stopping the masking demands of seven primary schools, which had brought them back in recent weeks due to high school absenteeism.

What is new: The new plan approved by the board on Monday completely removes a requirement for schools to bring masks if 5% of students at that school are absent due to illness.

That’s the threshold that led seven elementary schools to bring universal masking back earlier this month.

The revised plan also raises another threshold that will trigger a school’s return to masking. Now, a school’s student absenteeism rate specifically from COVID-19 must be 5% or higher, up from 3% under the previous policy.

A school must drop to less than 5% of COVID-related absences for a week before returning to optional masking under the new plan.

In addition to the plan that was eventually approved, Superintendent Michelle Hubbard also presented the board with another option that would have removed all masking requirements altogether, but the board did not discuss this alternative in depth.

Background: Shawnee Mission was first implemented its former COVID-19 mitigation in early February.

This plan included the two separate thresholds that could trigger a return to masking at a school: either a 3% COVID-19 positivity rate or a 5% disease-related absence rate.

The 5% threshold was requested six elementary schools left for masks the first week of Apriland a seventh school was added on April 11, but it was not clear how many of these schools’ absences were related to COVID-19.

SM Northwest area board member Jaime Borgman made a surprising proposal at the board’s regular meeting on April 11 to remove mask mandates at all schools regardless of the absence rate.

Earlier this month, Blue Valley School Board repealed a similar district-wide mask rule based on student absenteeism over some board members’ concerns that non-COVID-related absence triggered a return to masking rules.

Borgman’s proposal at the April 11 meeting failed, however the Board of Directors agreed to revise its COVID-19 remediation plan at Monday’s extraordinary meeting.

Masked schools: Hubbard confirmed on April 18, after the approval of Plan A, that every Shawnee Mission school currently masked will return to optional masking from April 19.

No school is now at or above the new 5% COVID-19 threshold, she said.

Key quote: “It has never been a choice between good or bad, right or wrong,” Hubbard said during the special meeting she attended by telephone. “Every choice we have made so far has had consequences. We have five weeks left of school, and again, our first goal is to keep students confident in learning in school.”

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