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Lawrence school district will mandate face masks for unvaccinated this fall

Update, July 27, 2021:

Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health: Masks encouraged indoors for everyone ages 2 and up; schools to mandate masks

Original article:

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Lawrence public schools will require students and staff who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to mask up in August, but it will be based on an honor system rather than requiring proof of vaccination.

In an email to families from Julie Boyle, executive director of communications for the Lawrence school district, the district issued its 2021-2022 COVID-19 prevention measures, which state “fully vaccinated individuals may wear masks at their discretion.” People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.

The district will require all individuals, age 2 and older, who aren’t fully vaccinated “to wear cloth face coverings or masks when indoors on school property” and it won’t request proof of vaccination. In addition, staff will provide mask breaks for students and facial masks won’t be required “outside, while eating, or during designated mask breaks.”

The protocols state that special education teams would work with families to determine use of personal protective equipment based on individual needs and that staff would collaborate with individuals unable to wear a mask on a case-by-case basis.

PPE — including masks, face shields, gloves and gowns — will be provided to staff and students as needed.

In similar large school districts in Kansas, mask mandates vary. In Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, masks will be required for all staff and students, and in Wichita masks are optional. As with so many activities during the COVID-19 era, the Lawrence school district’s prevention measures come with a caveat: “Mitigation strategies are subject to change.”

Here are some more takeaways from the protocols:

• Temperature screenings will be conducted when COVID-19 symptoms are reported.

The district will provide saliva-based PCR test kits upon request or when COVID-19 symptoms are reported.

Individuals with confirmed, probable or suspected cases of COVID-19 will be sent home to isolate until test results. Isolation term is 10 days from symptoms onset and fever-free for 72 hours or 10 days from testing date if there are no symptoms.

Infection periods in positive COVID-19 cases are defined as 48 hours before symptoms begin or testing date through 10 days after symptoms develop or testing date.

• Fully vaccinated individuals are exempt from quarantine unless they show symptoms.

Quarantine for close contacts is 10 days following the last exposure. See the district’s protocol for various close-contact scenarios.

Lawrence schools will follow COVID-19 guidelines for isolation, quarantine and return to school from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.

Staff will provide remote or hybrid instruction via WebEx and online resources when necessary due to a student’s isolation or quarantine.

Building leaders will encourage non-custodial staff to clean and disinfect their work areas and classrooms.

Observe 3 feet of social distancing whenever possible.

No meal guests.

Students and staff do not need to wear masks outdoors.

Free meals will continue to be provided for all students as grab-and-go meal choices.

Individuals with asthma must provide a personal spacer for all metered-dose asthma inhalers used in school buildings. Nebulizer treatments will not be allowed in school buildings because “exhalations through nebulizers used by someone with COVID-19 can spray the virus into the air.” Families should contact their doctor about alternative treatments, including metered-dose inhalers with spacers.

Classroom seating charts will be maintained by staff for use in contract tracing.

Requests from the community to use school facilities will begin Aug. 1, 2021.

Indoor visitors are only allowed at middle and high schools and will be required to wear masks if they’re 2 or older and not fully vaccinated.

• No indoor visitors at elementary schools.

Staff may conduct virtual parent-teacher conferences via WebEx at the request of a parent or guardian.

All school bus and district van drivers and riders will wear masks at all times, seating charts will be maintained, and windows and vents will open whenever possible.

No elementary field trips or activities will be conducted unless outdoors.

Water fountains will not be available, but water bottle fillers will be, so staff and students should bring their own water bottles.

The district will continue to monitor buildings’ air quality and install new filtration systems as needed and use air purification devices in all classrooms, office and workspaces except for larger areas — like gyms and cafeterias — where social distancing is possible.

Each building will maintain a COVID-19 response team.

The Lawrence schools’ COVID-19 protocols were developed “after a thorough review of back-to-school guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansas Department of Education and Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health.”

Boyle said the district encourages “all who are eligible and able to get the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and others.” Through an emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, COVID-19 vaccines are available — for free — to people 12 and older. You can make an appointment at this link

Boyle said families interested in remote learning for their children during the 2021-2022 school year can register with Lawrence Virtual School.

The start of school for many Lawrence public school students is only four weeks away. Kindergartners and students in grades 6 and 9 will attend a half-day, morning orientation Wednesday, Aug. 18. The K-12 regular schedule begins Thursday,  Aug. 19. Virtual parent-teacher conferences for returning students will be conducted Monday, Aug. 16, and Tuesday, Aug. 17.

The first day of school for early childhood education programs is Monday, Aug. 23.

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