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Derby school board establishes criteria for masks, COVID-19 response

Published: Sep. 3, 2021 at 4:25 PM CDT
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DERBY, Kan. (KWCH) - The Derby school board at a special meeting Friday formally approved criteria toward determining when a mask mandate could be implemented at its schools. The board met in response to rising cases in COVID19 among its 12 schools.

On a COVID-19 dashboard data shows the number of positive case and quarantine numbers for every building in the district. With the plan approved by the school board Friday, if more than six percent of a building’s students and staff are out due to COVID-19 quarantine, there would be a mask requirement for two weeks. If at least 2 percent are out, masks would be strongly recommended.

Based on the district’s dashboard, which will be updated every Friday, there are currently three schools in the “red” category of the mask criteria, exceeding that six percent mark. Those schools include El Paso Elementary School with 45 quarantine cases of 292 students and staff members, Swaney Elementary School with 44 quarantines out of 479 students and staff, and Derby Middle School with 122 quarantine cases out of 954 students and staff.

The criteria also includes a “yellow” category in which masks are strongly encouraged and “green” where masks are optional. The yellow category is applied to a building in which 2 to 5.99 percent of students and staff are out due to positive cases and total quarantine numbers. Green is applied when that percentage is 0 to 1.99.

Based on the criteria, staff, students and visitors at El Paso Elementary, Swaney Elementary and Derby Middle School will be required to wear masks from Sept. 7 to Sept. 17.

The board voted 4-2 to in favor of the plan correlating quarantine case percentages with mask requirements for each building.

“Providing our students with the in-person education they deserve is our top priority. Equally important is ensuring the safety of our students, staff and other stakeholders. In order to do this, preventive measures must be in place. These include masks when needed, on-site testing, vaccination for those who are eligible, staying home when symptomatic, enhanced cleaning, frequent hand washing/sanitizing, to name a few,” Derby Public Schools Superintendent Heather Bohaty said in a letter to the district’s staff and families.

Most of the parents who spoke at Friday’s meeting were not supportive of any mask requirement.

“They need to focus on education, or I hope thousands of parents pull their kids out and homeschool,” said former Derby parent Rick Coleman. “Then we start opening schools that teach education and not indoctrination.”

Others were happy with the board’s decision and feel it’s the safest way to keep kids in the classroom.

“We look to our educators to educate our children as the experts. So it’s important that we rely on experts, and the experts have resoundly said we need to be masking in school. So I’m glad they took those steps,” Derby parent Trisha Swindle said.

The Derby School Board will hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss the possibility of requiring masks in schools.

It’s the latest district to tackle the issue as the number of COVID cases rises in schools. At Derby Middle School more than 200 students were out last week for COVID-19 quarantines.

Derby’s potential mask requirement is unique from other districts because even if it passes, some buildings may not have to wear masks. The proposed requirement would only make masks mandatory if more than 6%t of staff and students are out. The district would then be considered in the Red zone. If 2.5% to 5.99% of students are out, masks would be strongly recommended. Under 2%, masks would be optional.

The district will also discuss a school board resignation at Friday’s meeting.

Watch the live discussion here: http://www.derbyweb.com/406/Channel-7

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