Masks still optional for Wichita Public Schools students ahead of first day of class

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:27 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The first day of school in Wichita is less than three weeks away, but a fourth surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations could challenge some plans for the school year.

Wichita Public Schools released its COVID-19 safety plan about a month ago, making masks and the COVID-19 vaccine optional for students and teachers. Now that cases are spiking once again, the American Academy of Pediatricians has updated guidance encouraging masks in schools parents could see a change.

“One of the things we’ve learned from COVID is the need to be very flexible, and the need to pay attention to what’s going on in our state, in our nation, and in our community,” said Teri Moses, Wichita Public Schools’ Safety Director.

Only 15 percent of students 12-17 are fully vaccinated in Sedgwick County. Now, the question is will the district reconsider optional mask policies?

“What am I going to suggest for my own kids? Probably not wear it. I don’t believe it’s good,” said Dustin Stadler, a parent.

“If it’s optional, my default is they wouldn’t have to wear it,” Brad Shores, another parent.

Moses said the district is always considering public safety and other options.

“What we’re doing is talking with experts right now about our options. At this time, the information we’ve sent out is that masks are optional at the time school starts,” she said.

Moses said the district’s priority is keeping children in the classroom all year.

“It is my senior year, so I’m hoping it’s going to be in person,” said student Ferhat Sbhatu. “I don’t want to have to do things online.”

At this point, a majority of the school districts have already released their plans for the upcoming school year. Several districts, like Maize, Wichita and Derby, say they will review their plans before the first day of school and make any necessary changes.

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