Kearney, Mo., August 14, 2021: Kearney School District has released its Return to School Plan for the 2021-2022 academic year.
The plan details KSD’s COVID-19 mitigation steps and how the district is going to operate during the upcoming school year. All students, parents/guardians and KSD staff members are strongly encouraged to take time to read through the plan before school starts on Aug. 24. The plan was shared today with stakeholders and is available online at ksdr1.net/covid-19-updates.
“After a year of school closures, quarantines, isolations and hybrid schedules, we have an opportunity to have all students in our schools every day,” Interim Superintendent Todd White said. “Our goal is clear: consistent in-person school attendance for both students and staff for the 2021-2022 school year. To achieve this goal, we need to ensure we are taking the appropriate health measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.”
To best achieve the goal of an uninterrupted in-person school experience for all students and staff, KSD is instituting the following policies starting immediately and until further notice across the district:
Universal, indoor masking is required for all students, KSD staff members and visitors regardless of vaccination status.
Students and adults are required to wear masks while in our school buses.
During a special meeting on Aug. 14, the KSD Board of Education authorized Dr. White to move forward with the Return to School Plan. In his communication with stakeholders, Dr. White explained the reasons why KSD is requiring face masks for students, staff and visitors.
COVID-19 cases are rising fast. The COVID-19 incidence rate was 237 per 100,000 in Clay County during the last week of July 2021, according to the CCPHC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this a high rate of community transmission. Hospitalizations in the county rose 30 percent each week over the last half of July. The situation is as severe or worse than it was in October of 2020, at which time the Kearney schools were under a mask mandate for all students and staff.
Public health authorities have changed physical distancing and quarantine guidance for schools. The physical distancing requirement has been reduced from six feet to three feet. This means that all students can attend school at the same time and hybrid schedules are not needed.
In addition, the CDC, DHSS and CCPHC have made substantial changes in the quarantining of close contacts. Quoting from the guidance:
If the school has implemented a mask mandate, and appropriate masks were being worn correctly by both individuals during the time of exposure in the school setting, the individual who came in contact with the person with COVID-19 can continue to attend school AND participate in school-related activities, so long as they can wear a mask and maintain social distance. This exception does not apply to staff and other adult visitors.
If the school has not implemented a mask mandate, close contacts in the school setting should follow previously implemented quarantine protocols and quarantine at home for 14 days.*
*KSD’s quarantine policy differs slightly. See page 6 of the Return to School Plan for details.
KSD is required to follow Board of Education policy EBB – Communicable Diseases:
Students or employees with communicable diseases that pose a risk of transmission in school or at school activities (such as, but not limited to, chickenpox, influenza and conjunctivitis) will be managed as required by law and in accordance with guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and local county or city health departments. Such management may include, but is not limited to, exclusion from school or reassignment as needed for the health and safety of students and staff.
COVID-19 quarantines have a significantly negative impact on teaching and learning. Last year over 1,800 quarantines were required in Kearney schools. Averaging eight school days for each quarantine period, excluding weekends, the approximate loss of in-person instructional time for the 2020-2021 school term was over 14,000 days or nearly 90,000 hours of learning loss. KSD simply cannot allow that to happen this year.
Masking allows more students to be at school and avoid unnecessary quarantines, Dr. White explained.
“We want and need to have all students in school every day class is in session. This is imperative,” he said. “We don’t want to wear masks, but it is an important mitigation step that will allow teaching and learning to continue uninterrupted. If all goes well, we can remove our masks as soon as it is safe to do so.”