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Some parents in area districts push for schools to unmask before year ends

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With the end of the 2020-2021 school year in sight, some parents want schools to drop mask requirements. The Valley Center school board on Thursday (April 8) will vote on whether to uphold its own mask and social distancing guidelines. This comes after former Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau, also a Valley Center parent, filed a complaint arguing that mandates are no longer necessary with the recent drop in COVID-19 infection rates in Sedgwick County.

Students in Valley Center who spoke with Eyewitness News said they are okay with wearing masks for the rest of the school year as long as they can continue attending in-person. There is a little more than one month left before students break for the summer, just 36 school days left in the year.

“Personally, I definitely don’t think we should drop the mask mandate because we are so close to the end of the year. Especially as a senior, I don’t want to risk graduation or anything like that. It’s just not worth the risk to me,” said Valley Center High School student Ella Wiechman.

Fellow VCHS student Sophie Girtz said taking the precautions for another 36 days is “a really small, easy thing (students) can do to be able to stay in school and do things like sports and have prom.”

“So I am really willing to do the small, easy thing to keep doing things,” Girtz said.

Some parents agree.

Others agree with Ranzau who thinks it’s time to drop the restrictions. Ranzau said the data supports his belief that schools can do so safely.

“For the last year, we have been told it’s all about the data, it’s all about bending the curve and protecting the hospitals as far as the number of patients, the number of ICU beds and the positive percentage rate, the number of cases,” Ranzau said. “We have reached a point where all of those are in great condition, (they) have been for four to six weeks. So all this data we have been talking about doesn’t matter, or we lied because now it’s all good. What are we waiting on?”

Wichita pediatrician Dr. Rebecca Reddy said while the numbers are improved from late 2020, it’s still too early to unmask in schools.

“I think what’s really important for families to think about right now is how effective masks have been. Already, parents know we had hardly any influenza in our schools this year at all. Children were shown not to be big transmitters of COVID while at school wearing masks, so masks are effective,” she said.

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