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Kansas City Public Schools First In Area To Require Vaccinations Of All Staff Or Weekly Testing

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Nicole Blakeney, a Southeast High School English teacher, receiving a COVID-19 vaccination in March. She was among the first teachers in the city to get vaccinated. Teachers in the Kansas City Public School system will be required to show proof of vaccination or be tested weekly.

The school district already requires teachers, staff and students to wear masks inside school buildings.

Kansas City Public Schools will require all teachers and staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.

The school district, the first in the metropolitan area to issue such a mandate, made the decision last week as cases of COVID-19 in the area surge, largely driven by the delta variant. School officials discussed the mandate Wednesday night at a school board meeting.

“I can confirm that we are going to require teachers and staff to be vaccinated,” said KCPS spokeswoman Elle Moxley. “If they decline to be vaccinated, they will have to participate in weekly COVID testing.”

Classes resume on Aug. 23.

Moxley said funding for the testing will come through ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund). The school district has partnered with Children’s Mercy Hospital to do the testing.

The school district already requires teachers, staff and students to wear masks inside school buildings.

“We will continue to work with our adults as we continue to get CDC updates,” Superintendent Mark T. Bedell said at the school board meeting. “There are times when it may be appropriate where they don't have to have a mask. At this point, we're going to continue that.”

Deputy Superintendent Jennifer Collier said the school district has experienced some resignations recently, but not because of the mask mandates. Rather, she said, it was because other districts have offered teachers more money.

Unlike other school districts in the metropolitan area, the Kansas City school district has experienced relatively little pushback from parents or teachers opposing the mask requirement.

The city of Kansas City recently reissued a mask mandate requiring anyone over the age of 5 to wear masks indoors in public venues, regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated. The emergency order took effect Aug. 2 and is scheduled to end Aug. 28.

Starting on Aug. 9, Jackson County also required individuals ages 5 and up to wear masks in indoor public places, even if they've been vaccinated.

Just over 48% of Kansas City residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, COVID hospitalizations continue to rise. The University of Kansas Health System reported today that it has 62 COVID-19 patients, including 19 in the intensive care unit.

Moxley said Kansas City Public Schools will permit vaccination exemptions for religious or health reasons. She said those would be decided on a case by case basis.

The school district said any of the vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration will be acceptable. The FDA has granted emergency authorization to the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, the two-dose Moderna vaccine and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

As a reporter covering breaking news and legal affairs, I want to demystify often-complex legal issues in order to expose the visible and invisible ways they affect people’s lives. I cover issues of justice and equity, and seek to ensure that significant and often under-covered developments get the attention they deserve so that KCUR listeners and readers are equipped with the knowledge they need to act as better informed citizens. Email me at dan@kcur.org.
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