Last week, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners lifted a countywide public health order requiring masks in all K-6 schools.
That order was originally set to expire in May, but with new COVID-19 cases dropping sharply, the board acted to rescind the mandate effective immediately.
Some public school districts in northern Johnson County had already begun lifting their own masking rules for students and staff or had put measures in place to end their mask requirements for younger students once the county order was lifted.
Students return to class Tuesday and Wednesday after the long holiday weekend (made longer, in some cases, by canceled classes late last week due to inclement weather), and none of the four major public school districts in northern Johnson County is now requiring masks.
But masks could return in individual school buildings if certain conditions arise.
Here are the details of each major district’s optional policies for masking.
Shawnee Mission School District
- SMSD students return to class on Wednesday (following a staff development day Tuesday) under a revised COVID-19 mitigation plan that make masks optional for all students.
- The school board on Feb. 14 had already made masks optional for middle and high schoolers and approved a plan that would make masks optional in elementary schools if the county lifted its K-6 school mask order, too.
- If an individual school building reaches more than 3% COVID-19 positivity or more than 5% of student absences are due to illness, that individual school will return to universal masking.
Blue Valley School District
- As of last week, the Blue Valley School District has made masks optional for all students. The Blue Valley Board of Education voted for the updated policy to go into effect immediately at the February 14 board meeting, three days before the county officially lifted its K-6 school order.
- Per the new policy, students and staff in all district buildings can choose whether or not to wear masks as long as the building stays below a certain threshold.
- That threshold would be broken if a building’s absentee rate from illness rose above 10%. In that case, masks would once again be required for two weeks in that building. Following those two weeks, absentee rate data would be reassessed.
- A day after the county lifted its K-6 school order, the USD 232 school board in De Soto also updated that district’s mask policy to make masks optional for all buildings. That updated policy goes into effect on Tuesday, when students return from the holiday.
- Masks were already optional at the high school level, but this update includes all other facilities, including elementary and middle schools.
- In order for this policy to stay in place, total COVID-related absences districtwide must stay below a 5% threshold.
- This is also on an individual building basis. If a building’s absences rise above the 5% threshold, masks would then be required at that building again until COVID-related absences dipped back below 5% for at least a week.
Olathe Public Schools
- Masks are also optional in Olathe Public Schools, according to the district’s COVID-19 policy on its website.
- This continues as long as absentees per building stays below a 7% threshold.
- If student absentee rates surpass that threshold, universal masking goes into place until the absentee rate decreases back to below 7% for 14 days.
- School-related absences are not included in daily absentee rates, the district says.