Masks to be required on school busses

Chad Frey
The Kansan

It appears that Newton USD 373 students who ride the bus to school, and for other purposes like sports, will be wearing masks when school starts Aug. 12.

When school starts Aug. 12, students in Newton USD 373 will be required to wear masks on the bus in response to federal rules.

So will their bus drivers and other staff on the bus. 

The Newton USD 373 Board of Education will discuss the issue Aug. 9 at its regularly scheduled board meeting. 

Aug. 2 Harvey County reported 34 cases  in the latest week. A week earlier, it had reported 20 cases and zero deaths. Throughout the pandemic it has reported 3,797 cases and 72 deaths. The county reported a new death Aug. 3. 

 New coronavirus cases leaped in Kansas in the week ending Aug. 1, rising 48.7% as 5,665 cases were reported. The previous week had 3,810 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.

In the face of surging COVID-19 cases statewide, Gov. Laura Kelly stopped short of a mandate requiring the wearing of facial coverings in schools during an announcement of new guidance last week. Newton USD 373 has not discussed facial covering use in classrooms do date, meaning a covering requested but not required policy is in place at this time. 

Monday's discussion represents the first discussion of facial covering rules and policies by the Board of Education since school ended for the 2020-21 school year — a year that ended with the district subjected to an SB40 lawsuit which the district successfully defended. That lawsuit sought to throw out facial covering rules that were in place at the end of last school year that required their use in classrooms.  

According to notes written by Superintendent Fred Van Ranken in the board agenda, there is no option for the school district but to require facial coverings on busses. 

"Federal regulations state that we have to require masks on any district vehicle that transports individuals due to federal regulations," Van Ranken wrote. "These are the same federal regulations that govern all forms of public transportation. These are  not guidelines, meaning there is not an option. Failure to comply could result in the loss of federal dollars."

On January 29, 2021, CDC issued an order that required face masks to be worn by all people while on public transportation (which included all passengers and all personnel operating conveyances) traveling into, within, or out of the United States and U.S. territories.

According to the CDC,  People on board the following categories of conveyances continue to be exempt from the requirement to wear a mask:

• Private conveyances operated only for personal, non-commercial use;

• Commercial motor vehicles or trucks, if the driver is the only person in the vehicle or truck, or the vehicle or truck is operated by a team who all live in the same household and are the only persons in the vehicle;

• Conveyances operated or chartered by the U.S. military as long as the operator of the conveyance follows all requirements of U.S. military services to prevent spread of COVID-19 that are equivalent to the requirements in CDC’s Order.