Prairie View board stops short of mask mandate for students

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

The Prairie View USD 362 will only highly encourage that masks be worn as students prepare to return to the classroom next week. (Stock photo)

LA CYGNE – Students returning to classes to Prairie View USD 362 schools next week will not be required to wear masks – except on buses – to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While the board of education unanimously adopted a plan that “highly encouraged” wearing masks by unvaccinated students it stopped short of requiring them.

The boardroom was full at the Aug 9, regular meeting with parents and students in attendance. Before the board took the mask question into consideration, two parents used the citizens’ open forum to read prepared statements to the board.

Jennifer Griego was the first to speak. She has five children attending school in the district. Her time had to be cut short at the three minute time allowed for speakers.

She said she was not happy with the district’s handling of COVID-19 last year, she quoted statistics she had gathered, and clearly stated that she did not consent to the school interfering with “my children’s right to breathe.”

Griego brought with her a package of paper masks she purchased, and read a statement printed on the package claiming that wearing the masks did not prevent any disease. She concluded with, “I am asking to put the lies and propaganda aside. It’s time to take care of our kids.”

Mitch Falls was the next parent to speak. He has three children in the district, all under the age of 10.

“We know cloth masks do not work,” he said. Later in his remarks he said, “We know healthy children are not affected by COVID.”

The Centers for Disease Control, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Linn County Health Department all recommend that everyone older than 2 wear masks indoors, including school settings, to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

During the student services report, Rex Bollinger, superintendent, presented the 2021-2022 Plan for Safe Return. The plan was a revision of the plan from last year. It was drafted and recommended by the district administration.

The plan can be found on the Prairie View website under the heading district forms.

He began the presentation with personal health assessments which are encouraged to be conducted daily by students and staff before entering any facility or participating in any district sponsored activity, with regard to symptoms.

Under the plan, masks are highly encouraged for those not fully vaccinated, however, every family has the right to choose whether their children will wear masks or not. Masks are optional for all outdoor activities.

However, the plan does include language designed to prevent bullying based on what the student chooses to do. “No individual shall be treated unfairly or uncivilly based on their masking or vaccination choices,” the plan states.

Masks will still be required on school buses by the Centers for Disease Control and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment because they are considered to be public transportation.

Ginny Scott, school nurse for the district was present at the meeting. She will be working with the Linn County Health Department, which has offered its services in testing by nasal swab, which can be at a centralized location at the district as needed.

The health department is also available to offer vaccine clinics at school. Scott as well as Prairie View administration are mandated reporters of COVID-19 exposure to the county health department.

“We do not quarantine,” she said. “The health department quarantines.”

She wanted parents to know that if she sends students home with COVID symptoms, they must be symptom free without medication for 24 hours before returning to school.

This plan was approved unanimously by the board, with the understanding that the plan can be modified or changed based on changing conditions within the county.

For an updated story on COVID-19 cases in Linn County, see the related story in this section.

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