Hays USD 489 to ease some mask restrictions as of April 26

Hays USD 489 to ease some mask restrictions as of April 26

Posted Apr 13, 2021 6:01 AM

By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post

The Hays school district announced Monday that it will ease some restrictions on wearing masks in school as of April 26.

Students will be allowed to remove their masks if they choose while they are seated in class.

Students will still be required to wear masks:
• On district transportation during regular transportation routes and during transportation for activities.
• When entering school buildings
• When in congested hallways or confined areas
• When standing in food lines.

The district continues to restrict most visitors, but any visitors to district schools would be required to wear masks.

Kansas State High School Athletics Association rules regarding masks will still apply during activities.

Temperature checks are also being eliminated.

Superintendent Ron Wilson noted that if a student has been wearing a mask, is exposed to someone who has COVID and continues to be asymptomatic, they will not be required to quarantine.

Wilson said the recommendation was a result of discussions with the local education COVID task force. That includes officials from other schools in the county, a local physician and a school nurse. 

"Numbers districtwide have looked good for three to four weeks. We are  very optimistic," Wilson said. "However, we know COVID is still real and COVID is still here and we take it very seriously."

No new cases of COVID were reported in Ellis County since Friday.

Two people from the public spoke at the meeting arguing for elimination to all mask requirements.

Julie Eikenberry, mother of a Hays High School sophomore, said the school year had been very hard socially and emotionally on students who had not been able to see their teachers' of their peers' faces. 

"Take the masks away, and let the kids be free," she said.

All six board members in attendance said they supported the easing of the mask rules, but said if COVID numbers would spike they would support going back to the original mask rules. Lori Hertel was absent from the meeting.

Mike Walker, board president, said the school district is trying to create a balance. 

"When we started talking about this what seems like five years ago, we really tried to do a balancing act between our children, our staff and our families," he said. "But also the best possible scenario for the physical health and safety, emotional well being, social growth and academic achievement of kids ... We are not making these decisions lightly."

Board member Craig Pallister said he appreciated that Dr. Heather Harris of HaysMed and USD 489 lead nurse Jessica Roe also supported the mask changes.

"Everyone is on board with this plan. This is a very good compromise," he said.

Pallister said the district still needs to monitor COVID numbers, noting that 73 people have died in Ellis County due to COVID. 

Board member Tammy Wellbrock said one of those people was her mother.

"Sometimes we are making decision that my kid in his junior year is going to be impacted, and I maybe would have done something different as a mom as I'm voting," she said, "but I'm not, I'm voting  as a public elected official.

"It is definitely difficult to sometimes know you're making a decision that friends and family won't always support. I think we're all trying to do our best."

Wilson said the district has been able to get through COVID because people who were on different sides of the fence on masks and COVID restrictions all worked together. 

"With everyone working together, we can get through this. I think this is the logical next step," he said.