Both Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley are requiring all students to wear face masks this school year as a COVID-19 mitigation measure.
Even with universal mask requirements in the districts and a countywide mandate for all elementary students, individuals are able to obtain exemptions, primarily for health-related reasons.
Here’s how both Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley are handling exemptions — and how many have been approved so far this school year in each district.
To date, Shawnee Mission has approved 40 mask exemptions for students, the district’s chief communications officer David Smith told the Shawnee Mission Post via email.
That is more than double the amount of mask exemptions approved during the 2020-21 school year, in which 16 students were afforded exemptions, according to Smith.
However, it should be noted that all students have returned to in-person learning this year, compared to last year, when many students were in hybrid or remote-only mode for parts or all of the school year.
Smith said Shawnee Mission isn’t tracking how many exemption requests the district has received in its 44 schools, and it isn’t tracking how many requests have been denied, making it harder to contextualize the 40 granted exemptions.
According to the district’s COVID-19 mitigation plan, students with a “medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering” can be exempted.
In order to be approved for an exemption, students in SMSD must show proof of a medical diagnosis from a physician who states wearing a mask would be detrimental to the child’s health, Smith said.
Smith said this week that he was not aware of any exemption requests the district had received that have been related to religious beliefs, though that condition is not a specific category of exemption laid out in SMSD’s COVID-19 policy.
Smith said the district has approved exemptions related to communication with students who are deaf.
More information about Shawnee Mission mask exemptions can be found here.
Similar to Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley says it is not tracking denied requests, the ditrict’s communications director Kaci Brutto told the Post.
The district is tracking approved requests via individual school buildings, she said.
Prior to the beginning of the school year, Brutto said Blue Valley had 136 mask exemptions on file — which accounts for approximately 0.61% of students, she said.
As of Sept. 14, there were 312 approved mask exemptions in Blue Valley.
Brutto said approved reasons include the following: “medical, communication or actively participating in a religious activity.”
If exemption requests didn’t meet the criteria, Brutto said they were denied.
More information about Blue Valley mask exemptions can be found here.