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Kansas City extends mask mandate in schools through the end of winter classes

Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The extended mask order, which only applies inside school buildings and school buses, is set to expire on Jan. 1.

The new ordinance notes that a mask requirement is the best way to protect Kansas City children as the majority of them remain unvaccinated against COVID-19.

Kansas City children and teachers will be masking up for another month, following a vote by the city council on Thursday.

The council voted 9-1 to extend the current mask mandate to Jan. 1. Council member Brandon Ellington voted against the measure, while council members Heather Hall, Kevin O'Neill and Teresa Loar were absent.

The council relaxed its mask order last month to apply only inside school buildings and school buses, citing a decline in COVID-19 cases. The updated mandate was set to expire on Thursday, Dec. 2.

Mayor Quinton Lucas said he had spoken with a number of local school districts ahead of the decision.

“This is just to help our school districts, our school buildings and facilities get through the last several weeks of this semester with a mask rule as recommended from our health department,” Lucas said.

The mandate is set to expire while the council is off for the holidays. Lucas said it will likely end then unless they renew it.

Lucas said at a previous council meeting that keeping masks in schools will give younger children more time to get vaccinated after they became eligible for vaccinations.

The new ordinance notes that children in Kansas City are largely unvaccinated, with only 12.6% of those ages 5 to 9 receiving at least one vaccine dose as of Nov. 25. None are considered fully vaccinated. Just over half of Kansas City's overall population is fully vaccinated.

“In the absence of widespread vaccination, the best method left to protect the children of Kansas City in public is by requiring the wearing of face coverings and masks,” the ordinance states.

COVID case numbers have been steadily climbing in Kansas City. The city reports an infection rate of 144.8 new cases per 100,000 people as of Nov. 20, an uptick from earlier in the month. The increase puts the city in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for "high" spread.

A group calling itself the Northland Parent Association asked a federal judge to block Kansas City’s school mask mandate after it was extended last month. On Monday, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, which also named several Northland school districts, on the grounds the association lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit.

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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