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Universal masks recommended for Kansas schools, not mandated

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FILE(Dru Loman)
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 12:36 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Governor Laura Kelly has recommended that students, staff, and faculty wear masks indoors at school, regardless of vaccination status, but has not required it.

Governor Laura Kelly says her administration has created a new and updated summary document from recommendations in the Kansas Department of Education’s Navigating Change: Kansas’ Guide to Learning and School Safety Operations as a reference guide and tool for schools before the start of classes. She said the document continues Kansas’ practice of mirroring guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The document provides that COVID-19 vaccines are currently the best prevention strategy, however, only students over the age of 12 are eligible. It said a robust testing strategy will be needed to ensure those that are unvaccinated do not spread the virus. Universal masking indoors is recommended, but not mandated. However, everyone will be required to wear face masks on public transportation. Schools are required to maintain 3 feet of social distancing.

According to Gov. Kelly, the updated recommendations should be used with each other as multiple levels of safety.

In addition to the guidance, Gov. Kelly said she and the KSDE encourage districts to submit requests for ELC Grant Funds. She said the state of Kansas received $87 million to fund equipment, testing and medical staff to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

“We know our children belong in the classroom, but it’s critical that we provide Kansas school districts with support and tools they need to keep our kids safe,” Governor Kelly said. “This guidance is in line with what we have made available over the last year but has been modified to incorporate the best information we have to fight the Delta variant. I encourage school districts to follow the science and use the available funds to keep their kids safe.”

According to the Kansas Governor, many districts have already made requests for ELC funds. Including for clinical and administrative staff as well as equipment with mobile technology to create and support the most flexible COVID-19 testing plans possible. She said in more rural areas requests include transportation to share staff between school buildings and transport sick children. She said others have opted to use funds for vaccination events including incentives and communications in the community.

“We are thankful for the leadership provided by Governor Kelly and Secretary Norman,” Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson said. “We want every student to be in the classroom this fall. To ensure this happens, school districts should continue partnering with their local medical teams to implement safety protocols that protect all students and school personnel.”

Gov. Kelly said her administration worked to develop guidance that would ensure that districts would be equipped with the best information as they prepared to bring students back for full-time, in-person learning in August. She said her administration will continue to issue new guidance as information is provided by the CDC.

“To ensure everyone remains safe as schools resume in August, it is key for schools and communities to work together,” Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said. “We urge school districts to use the ELC resources for additional support. And, we encourage communities to continue taking precautions to mitigate the virus, including vaccination and testing. If individuals are not vaccinated, please wear a mask in public. If you’re feeling sick, get tested, practice social distancing and stay home.”

According to Gov. Kelly, the Sunflower State started a robust, statewide PSA campaign to encourage residents to get vaccinated before the July 4 holiday, which will continue throughout the year.

To read the recommendations, click HERE.

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