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Education

School Districts Adopting Mask Mandates Following Rough Start With COVID-19

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Several school districts in the Wichita area have decided to mandate masks for students and employees.

School districts in Arkansas City, Mulvane and Andover voted this week to require masks for students, employees and visitors.

The moves come as positive COVID-19 cases increase in schools, along with the number of students forced to quarantine after coming into contact with someone who is sick. Wellington closed its schools for more than a week because of an uptick in cases.

As of Monday, 30 of Kansas' 50 largest school districts have mask mandates in place, with most passed in the last month. Those 30 districts educate about 55% of the state's roughly 475,000 students.

Wichita, the state's largest district, began requiring masks for students, employees and visitors on Monday, regardless of vaccine status.

Here's a rundown of action taken by other local districts:

Andover

The Andover School board voted Tuesday night to require face masks at its elementary schools.

But it rejected a motion to extend the requirement to the district’s middle and high schools. The motion failed on a 3-3 vote.

The mask mandate begins Friday. It will run through Oct. 12, when it will be re-evaluated.

The district said in an email to Andover parents that the number of positive cases among students doubled last week to 38. There also are 196 students in quarantine.

Arkansas City

The school board voted in a special meeting Monday night to make masks mandatory for students and employees, beginning Wednesday. The mandate will run through Sept. 13.

"This decision was made in an effort to keep as many students learning in person as possible," the district said in a statement.

Arkansas City said 32 students and 10 employees are infected, and 211 students are in quarantine. The district has about 3,000 students.

The board plans to discuss the mandate at its Sept. 13 meeting and review a modified masking plan currently being developed.

Mulvane

The school board voted Monday night to require masks in schools beginning Wednesday. The mandate will be re-evaluated on Sept. 27.

As of Tuesday, district officials said 44 students and nine employees had tested positive. Nearly 200 of the district's roughly 1,800 students are in quarantine.

The district said it will use the state health department's rapid testing program beginning Sept. 7.

Wellington

The Wellington district closed its six schools last Friday because of Covid-19 clusters at some of the schools.

The district said it had 40 cases in the first eight days of school. It also was testing more than 200 students daily for Covid-19.

The schools are scheduled to reopen on Sept. 7, the day after Labor Day. The temporary closure also means all sports practices and school-related events are canceled.

"This is a challenging time for our entire district," Superintendent Adam Hatfield said in a letter on the district's website. "Everybody wants our kids in school. We are hoping it is only a minor setback."

The Wellington school board has scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss the district's safety and operation plan.