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Here's what Kansas City area school districts say about masks as COVID-19 cases worsen

A student at Mark Twain Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas works on a tablet during class last year.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
A student at Mark Twain Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas works on a tablet during class last year.

Many Kansas City area students will not be required to mask up when they return to class this week despite concerns about the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Kansas City area students and teachers are heading back to the classroom this week, many to schools without masking requirements.

The return from winter break comes as the highly contagious omicron variant drives up COVID-19 cases across the region.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas addressed mounting concerns about the spread on Sunday, stating on Twitter that he would be meeting with school officials mid-week.

The Kansas City Council voted to let its mask mandate for schools expire on Jan. 1, prompting some school districts to drop their requirements for the new semester.

Here’s a look at area school districts' current masking policies.

Kansas City, Missouri

Kansas City Public Schools upheld its previous COVID mitigation protocols when students returned to class on Tuesday.

The district continues to require masks in all of its buildings, regardless of vaccination status. A district spokesperson wrote in an email that with the spread of the omicron variant, “these protocols are as important as ever.”

Clay County, Missouri

North Kansas City Schools and Liberty Public Schools announced following the expiration of Kansas City’s order that they would no longer require masks when students and staff return from winter break.

NKC Schools will require masks at Briarcliff Elementary and North Kansas City High School until Jan. 15, since they are located in North Kansas City and follow its mandate.

Liberty Public Schools' superintendent wrote in a letter to district families that it was keeping contact with local health officials and “understand future revisions to our plan may be necessary.”

Smithville School District and Kearney School District both voted in December to recommend, not require, masks. Smithville’s new plan starts when students return from winter break, while Kearney’s was effective Dec. 23.

Platte County, Missouri

The Park Hill School District is also dropping its mask mandate when students return to class in January, citing in its mitigation plan that children and adults now have the opportunity to be vaccinated.

Jackson County, Missouri

Masks are now optional in all schools in the Lee’s Summit School District. Previously, masks were only required at its pre-kindergarten and elementary schools.

The Independence School District and Blue Springs School District removed their mask requirements when the Jackson County Legislature ended its mask order in November.

Hickman Mills School District will continue to require masks in all of its buildings, regardless of vaccination status.

Wyandotte County, Kansas

Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools will continue its mitigation efforts by requiring masks be worn by all students, staff and visitors.

That decision comes despite a move by commissioners with the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas to end the city’s mask mandate on Dec. 17.

Johnson County, Kansas

The Shawnee Mission school board met in a special meeting on Monday to review its virus mitigation plan before classes resume on Wednesday.

After a three-hour discussion that included multiple interruptions from the audience, the board ultimately voted to continue not requiring masks in its middle and high schools.

Under the plan, masking will be required only in buildings where 3% or more of the school is in quarantine.

The decision came after an initial vote to require masks for all students for the first two weeks of classes.

Masks are already optional in high schools in both Olathe Public Schools and Blue Valley Schools as long as buildings do not exceed set quarantine and case thresholds.

Masks are still required in Johnson County schools that enroll children up to sixth grade because of a county order that is up for review on Thursday. Ahead of the county commission meeting, more than 200 doctors wrote an open letter urging county and school district leaders to reinstate universal masking in all schools.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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