At this time, COVID restrictions lifted by USD 373

Chad Frey
The Kansan

The Center for Disease Control issued guidance for schools this month for COVID-19 protocols and safety measures as schools prepare for a new school year. 

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Education have not released their own set of guidelines — though the two groups have been working on a set of recommendations for Kansas schools. 

At this time Newton USD 373 is planning to have masks be optional when school begins Aug. 13. New guidelines are expected from KDHE and the state board of education at any time.

It has become a hot topic as the Delta Variant has led to an increase in COVID-19 cases.  New coronavirus cases leaped in Kansas in the week ending Sunday, rising 58.2% as 2,962 cases were reported. The previous week had 1,872 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Harvey County reported 20 cases at that time. A week earlier, it had reported 13 cases. Throughout the pandemic it has reported 3,743 cases and 72 deaths.

"That is a large topic right now. We are wanting for the KDHE and Kansas Department of Education to release guidance," said Lynette Redington, director of the Harvey County Health Department.  "...Some of our local schools have announced they are not requiring masks and are going back to full schools. We have not released our guidance as of yet." 

At this time Newton USD 373 is planning for "regular school."

"Right now the plan is to lift Covid restrictions," said Samantha Anderson, director of public information for Newton USD 373. "However, the district will still be monitoring the numbers to see if any changes need to be recommended."

The school district did go through litigation as of the result of SB 40 at the end of the 2020-21 school year, winning its case in favor of mask restrictions. 

The school year is set to begin Aug. 13. The next regularly scheduled board of education meeting is Aug. 9. A special meeting of the board this week dealt only with a personnel report. There was no discussion on any other items during a meeting that lasted less than 10 minutes. 

The CDC is recommending masks be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.  Vaccines are currently approved for use by those 12 and older.

CDC recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated, to reduce transmission risk.

Redington said state guidance for school systems is expected at about any time.