TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) – Topeka Public Schools board of education members pushed back a decision on what COVID precautions – if any – to have in place when students return to classrooms in August.
USD 501 Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson presented a plan at Thursday night’s board meeting for members to consider.
According to a draft posted on the district’s website, USD 501 students would return full-time, in-person, five days a week. Families would still have a virtual option through the Virtual Early College Prep Academy.
The draft stated, “masks/face coverings are among the most critical components of infection control and reduced risk of viral spreading.” As such, the plan did not require wearing masks outdoors. However, masks would be required indoors for preschool and elementary students who are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to age restrictions, as well as middle and high school students, staff, visitors, and non-staff.
“It would be very nice if people were vaccinated and had a ‘V’ on their forehead but they’re not and you can’t know, and you can’t ask, you can ask them but they’re not obligated to tell you and there are some people that lie about it,” said Board Member Dr. Michael Morrison.
The masking requirement drew discussion among board members, with suggestions including no masks for anyone, or allowing people to show proof of vaccination to go without face coverings. In light of board members’ questions and concerns, they opted to continue discussions at their meeting next week.
Morrison said as a physician, it’s important to follow science.
“Who knows? Maybe everybody will see that COVID rates are going up and there will be a flood of vaccinations,” he said.
Earlier Thursday, the Shawnee Co. Health Dept. issued an alert about rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. The agency said the county has seen 112 new cases since Sunday, bringing the July total to 144 midway through the month. Shawnee County had 156 cases for all of June.
New CDC guidance for schools issued last week recommends mask use for people who are not fully vaccinated, including students, teachers, and staff. However, it noted school administrators may opt to make mask use universally required based on the needs of their communities.
USD 501′s draft policy also would maintain three feet of social distancing in classrooms, and three-to-six foot social distancing whenever possible beyond the classroom.
“The safety of the children is the most important thing,” said Morrison. “This is a rolling thing, I mean even if we finalize it, open school, we could it and it could change.”
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