USD 383 approves optional masking at MHS, continues mandatory masking at all other buildings

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Masks will no longer be mandated at Manhattan High School.

The USD 383 school board voted 6 to 1 Wednesday for the revised pandemic response plan which makes masks optional at both the east and west campuses, beginning Nov. 1, and continues through Nov. 19. All other school buildings will continue to mask up until at least Nov. 19, when the plan will be revisited.

Superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade says this decision comes from a mix of the positive and vaccination rates in the county.

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Wade says now is the time to allow those who have had the ability to get vaccinated to make the choice of wearing a mask.

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Board vice president Kristin Brighton cast the lone dissenting vote Wednesday. She says she falls into the “if it isn’t broke , don’t fix it” mentality.

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Brighton says the current vaccination rate in the county is also a contributing factor, since the student rate could be similar. She was also concerned about peer pressure students may face if the majority of people are not wearing masks.

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Administrators called this a transitional and observational period. Board member Katrina Lewison predicts there will be consequences to the changes.

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Despite her concerns from the unvaccinated, Lewison voted to approve the updated plan. Board member Karla Hagemeister says those who are uncomfortable with the change should be able to say so.

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Board member Darell Edie says he continues to be against mask mandates because he doesn’t think they work.

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The current plan has the district strongly encouraging students to get vaccinated. At Edie’s request, the plan was clarified to encourage getting the vaccine “if students want to and have permission from parents.”

Board member Curt Hermann says he still wants to be consistent with his previous decisions.

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Board member Brandy Santos was glad to see the option of wearing a mask, but remains opposed to any district imposed mandate.

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Santos, feeling like her opinions were mute, proposed another motion to allow mask wearing to be optional throughout the entire district. Only she and board member Edie voted in favor of the motion, which failed 5-2. Santos did however vote in favor of the new changes.

Board member Jurdene Coleman was on the fence with the risk of increased infections from students and staff choosing not to wear masks, but ultimately voted in favor of the updated plan.

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Coleman says the plan still allows for the district to correct course if infection rates increase again.

Earlier in the meeting, it was reported that 62 percent of teachers at MHS are in favor of keeping a mask mandate. A link to the full updated pandemic response plan is available below.

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County government and school board reporter. 2016 Kansas State University graduate in Journalism and Mass Communications. Kansas born and raised.

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