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Masks optional, COVID-19 vaccinations strongly encouraged for USD 259 students, staff in 2021-22 school year

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 11:29 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Masks and COVID-19 vaccinations will be optional for Wichita Public Schools staff and students for the 2021-22 school year, according to Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson. The new plan will be effective on July 6.

Thompson the district’s plan during a special meeting for USD 259 Wednesday afternoon.

While the COVID-19 precautions, at this time, are only recommendations, some parents hope they become requirements closer to the first day of school.

“I really hope this district requires masks, and maybe to get these children vaccinated so they’re not spreading this and taking it now maybe to younger siblings or to older grandparents, and especially with this new strain of the Delta variant. This scares me,” said parent Linda Martin.

Ahead of the school year, health officials are concerned about the Delta variant of COVID -19 spreading and low vaccination rates in kids. In Sedgwick County, there are roughly 45,000 12-17 year olds. The health department reports low vaccination rates in this age group. A majority of the other students aren’t eligible to get vaccinated.

Wichita Public Schools will offer COVID-19 testing. Hand washing and “healthy habits” will also be emphasized during the school year and staff and students are advised to stay home if they are feeling sick. The school district will also continue cleaning their buildings under their flu protocol. Cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer will also be available.

Terri Moses, Director of Safety Services for Wichita Public Schools, says if cases begin to rise, the district is ready to pivot.

“My message to parents is this is about a halfway point from COVID. We’ve changed a lot, and we will likely have to change again,” said Moses.

The district will again offer virtual learning through its Education Imagine (EI) Academy, but MySchool Remote will not be available.

“We’ve always been a school of choice. We’ve had a virtual academy for some time now. Through the pandemic, we were able to expand those services, and we do encourage parents to go that route,” said Moses.

All students will be able to eat for free during the school year, except for a la carte items, as part of the USDA’s extension for free lunch programs.

In lieu of the federal free and reduced lunch survey, the district will send out a household income survey. This survey allows the district to receive federal funding and helps families to receive free or reduced fees. Information from the survey is confidential.

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