Clemens: If Cases Go Up, Mask Policy May Change

Masking Indoor Optional At Schools After Winter Break

December 15, 2021

     Even after many Kansas City suburbs made masks optional, the North Kansas City School District kept the mandate in place due to the city mandate. But a mandate for the city of Kansas City, Mo., was set to expire after winter break, and the district  said Dec. 8 that after winter break masks would become optional inside buildings but still required on buses. 

     Superintendent Dan Clemens, Ed.D, said the decision was based on the policy in place for pandemics which states that the district will follow local and county health guidelines. 

I’m always working with Liberty and Park Hill and Kearney and Platte County. We’re all in conversation, and we’re all in similar places around masking.”

— Superintendent Daniel Clemens, Ed.D.

 “We have a policy that indicates that we will follow local and county health guidelines if there is a pandemic going on,” Clemens said. 

     After Clemens had announced the the mask-optional plan, the city of North Kansas City, Mo., implemented a mask requirement for all K-12 buildings within the city, so North Kansas City High School and Briarcliff Elementary will still be in masks after break.

     Clemens said the district works with Executive Director of Services Perry Hilvitz, Ed.D, who manages contact tracing and case numbers in the district. Additionally, he said he communicates with other school districts, and they discuss the decisions together.

     “I’m always working with Liberty and Park Hill and Kearney and Platte County,” Clemens said. “We’re all in conversation, and we’re all in similar places around masking.” 

     Clemens expressed concern over the spread of  COVID-19 after the removal of the mandate. He said that if cases rise noticeably, they will reevaluate the decision. 

     “If we start to see that, we’ll have to get back together to make a decision about masking,” Clemens said. 

   

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     As schools are one of the last locations to still require masks, students have mixed opinions on the removal of the mandate. With nearly 2,000 students, safety concerns have arisen. 

     Sophomore Eliana Hensley said that despite the vaccine being available, she still felt that removing the mask mandate is unsafe. 

     “COVID is still here, and if we don’t wear masks or get vaccinated it could still get worse because no one has pure immunity to it, even with the vaccine,” Hensley said. 

     Besides concerns about physical well-being, anxiety about the virus has also impacted the mental wellbeing of students. Students like freshman Lainey Fischer have struggled with virus anxiety. Fischer said the removal of the mandate may cause that anxiety to arise for other students. 

     “Last year I went virtual due to anxiety about the virus and just school in general,” Fischer said. “Those feelings of switching to virtual might be coming back to some students after the new mandate.”

     While some students feel removing the mask requirement is a risky decision to make, there are others who believe it’s a positive change. 

     Senior Joshua Mormino said students are aware of risks and that they should have the option to decide whether to wear a mask. 

     “I agree with the district’s decision,” Mormino said. “I feel that kids now know the risks to being unmasked and unvaccinated. We should be able to choose whether or not we wear masks. I personally can’t wait; I really missed seeing everyone’s faces.” 

     Senior Selena Escutia also said that the removal of the mask mandate will be beneficial socially. 

     “I want to be able to see my peers’ full faces before I graduate and never see them,” Escutia said. ”I want to have normal high school before it’s over.” 

     Despite mixed opinions from the student body, Clemens said he appreciated the way students have handled the challenges of the pandemic. 

     “I’m really, really proud of our kids,” Clemens said. We’ve asked them to mask for like 20 months, and our students have done a phenomenal job for the most part. Our students have done a good job of doing what they need to do so that we can stay in school.” 

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