USD 383 to continue mask requirements through summer; too early to determine steps for the fall

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Masks will continue to be required in USD 383 Manhattan/Ogden facilities during summer activities.

Superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade informed the school board Wednesday that after meeting with the Medical Advisory Committee, the district will continue to require them based on its recommendations.

“We still need to be looking out for the safety, security and welfare of those individuals on our sites,” he said.

Riley County rescinded its mask ordinance May 2. Manhattan’s mask ordinance expires May 16.

Wade suggested coming back to the topic in early July to see where the district is at before making a decision for the 2021-22 school year.

Board member Brandi Santos says she’d prefer a recommendation rather than a mandate since Riley County has rescinded its mask ordinance.

“It is my hope that we can get back to as normal as possible. I think it will be difficult to ask, especially the kids, to keep a mask on. They’ve been very resilient and I really appreciate all the families that have continued to wear the mask, but as area schools are removing their mask mandates, that’s my position on it,” she said.

Board member Darell Edie said he was on board, but wanted more hand sanitizer available in buildings especially for flu season.

Board member Katrina Lewison says they have to remember that students are not fully vaccinated.

“When we have groups of students together indoors, in a highly populated area, that’s where the virus spreads. I fully support Dr. Wade and these recommendations. I know this is evolving guidance and that just as we’ve been able to count on your consistency to keep us informed, I trust that you’ll continue to do that,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control says less than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United States have been among children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years of age. If community transmission is high, students and staff are more likely to come to school while infectious, and COVID-19 can spread more easily in schools. Riley County’s percent positive rate of COVID-19 for the week of April 28 was 3.2 percent, up from 1.8 percent the week before.

Lewison says while the administration’s guidance may not align with the city and county, they will do what is best for the students. The district is also keeping an eye on federal guidance related to vaccine trials in children. The Pfizer vaccine could eventually gain approval to be administered to children as young as 12 in the near future.

Other school districts across the area have been mixed on mask ordinances. Earlier this week, USD 384 Blue Valley school board members changed from a mandate to a recommendation. USD 378 Riley County Schools also has lifted its mask mandate.

USD 320 Wamego and USD 323 Rock Creek schools have both announced plans to continue mask requirements through the end of the school year, with the latter not requiring them for outdoor activities.

Sam Hennigh and Brandon Peoples contributed to this story.

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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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