Schools tackle another year of COVID

The county's three area school districts aren't yet requiring face masks when classes resume in a couple of weeks, but school boards will meet Aug. 9 and likely will discuss the matter.

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August 4, 2021 - 9:31 AM

Heaven Folk, left, holds her son Hendrix while enrolling Weston, a fourth-grader, and Harper, a third-grader, at Lincoln Elementary School on Tuesday. Iridian Klaassen, Lincoln secretary, hunts for their paperwork. Enrollment in USD 257 continues today. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

At this point, area schools will start the new school year much like they ended the last one when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions: Masks will be recommended, but not required.

Superintendents and school boards will meet soon and likely will discuss the increase in COVID-19 cases, along with Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent recommendation for wearing masks in school.

Superintendents said they didn’t want to presume what action the boards might take at their next meetings; all three of the county’s school boards will meet on Aug. 9. Classes begin in about two weeks.

All districts are discussing the governor’s recommendation, but few plan to require masks at this point, USD 257 Superintendent Stacey Fager said. He’s aware of districts in the Kansas City area and Salina that plan to require masks, and Pittsburg may require them on a short-term basis to start the fall semester.

Otherwise, most districts at this point may recommend, but not require, faculty and students to wear masks.

“We ended the school year with masks recommended, and we’re planning on starting at that same point,” Fager said. 

Marmaton Valley Superintendent Kim Ensminger said she would leave that decision to the school board. Otherwise, the district also will start the next school year as it ended, with a recommendation but not a mask mandate.

DISTRICTS are taking new approaches to address various matters related to COVID-19.

USD 257 will offer a vaccination clinic at the middle and high schools on Aug. 20. Faculty and students age 12 and older can receive the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic offered by the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas.

Parents are being offered consent forms at enrollment, which started Tuesday and continues today. 

The district offered a vaccination clinic last spring, and about 60% of faculty took advantage of it at that time, Fager said. At the time, the vaccine wasn’t approved for use in children. 

Now that older children can be vaccinated, it made sense to offer a clinic at the schools, Fager said. Any faculty member who did not previously obtain a vaccine also will have an opportunity to get one.

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses to be fully effective; a second clinic will be scheduled for the second dose. The clinic is being scheduled on a Friday in case anyone has an adverse reaction.

“Sometimes, people aren’t aware of their options to get vaccinated. If we provide it in the school or workplace, that becomes an easier option,” Fager said. 

“With the variants spreading, we’re trying to do our part.”

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