District high schools temporarily return to required masking

On Saturday, Jan. 8, assistant superintendent Alvie Cater notified teachers and administrators via email that the number of student isolations and exposures related to COVID-19 increased to a level that required face barrier masks for both high schools, De Soto and Mill Valley

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By Evan Sherman

After a lunch is over, every student within that lunch time slot leaves the cafeteria shoulder to shoulder.

Gabby Delpleash and Avery Gathright

Beginning Monday, Jan. 10, masks will be required for all students, staff and visitors while indoors at the high schools, as well as at CTEC, to help slow the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the district. The current weekly percentage of student cases topped 5.9% for the week ending Friday, Jan. 7. The threshold for temporarily returning to required face masks is 4% of students absent due to COVID-19 weekly. Mill Valley recorded its lowest percentages of student isolations and exposures (.31%) on Friday, Dec. 17, just prior to the semester break.

The temporary mask requirement will be in place for at least two weeks and until the weekly percentage of COVID-19 isolations and recommended quarantines drops below 2% for two consecutive weeks. Approved medical mask exemptions are still valid. The most recent update of the district’s COVID-19 dashboard can be found here 

At their Oct. 18, 2021 special meeting, the Board of Education voted to make barrier face masks optional at the high school level.  As part of that action, the Board approved metrics that would temporarily require barrier face masks to help slow the number of COVID-19 cases. The Board approved high school metrics for barrier face masks go as follows:

Masks will remain optional if the weekly percentage of recommended quarantines and isolations do not exceed 4% of a high school’s student enrollment.

If the percentage of recommended quarantines and isolations is greater than 4%, barrier face masks will be required as they are in other USD 232 buildings for at least two weeks and the percentage of recommended quarantines and isolations is less than 2% for two consecutive weeks. 

Athletics and activities will not experience any changes following the temporary mask mandate and will continue following the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHAA) COVID-19 Mitigation Information and COVID-19 Return to Participation Guideline. Masks will continue to be optional at KSHAA-sponsored events.

A chart on the district website details the number of student and staff isolations and recommended quarantines for the week ending Jan. 7.

Looking ahead, assistant superintendent Alvie Cater encourages “families and staff to remain diligent in conducting a personal health assessment each day. Individuals who suspect they are ill and are not staying well should stay home.”

Cater concludes his email by stating the Johnson County Health Department “will not provide contact tracing of COVID-19 cases at this time given the elevated levels of community spread. To that end, JCDHE is focusing its efforts on infected individuals. This means the school district is not currently providing close contact information to the health department and JCDHE will not notify staff and students if they are in close contact from a school exposure.”

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