By Jessie Wagoner
Masks are now optional for McPherson Public Schools students and staff. The school board made the decision to revise the COVID-19 safety protocols during a special board meeting on June 2.
Superintendent Shiloh Vincent issued a statement to parents and guardians advising of the changes.
“Beginning immediately (June 2), the following safety protocol will be in place to help with COVID-19 mitigation,” Vincent said. “Masks/Face Coverings (OPTIONAL) – Beginning June 2, 2021, masks/face coverings will be optional for students and staff. Social Distancing (OPTIONAL) – Beginning June 2, 2021, social distancing will be optional for students and staff.”
Vincent advised sanitization practices will continue. The district will continue to implement basic safety protocol for COVID-19 mitigation. This includes cleaning, sanitizing, and providing hand sanitizer.
McPherson County is currently providing COVID-19 vaccinations for anyone over the age of 12. Though vaccines are available, Vincent says vaccinations are a family choice at this time.
“The COVID-19 vaccination is not currently on the KDHE mandated vaccination list and continues to be a choice/decision that is up to each student and their family,” Vincent said. “The district will continue to inform families of vaccination opportunities, but does not require the COVID-19 vaccination.”
The decision to make masks and social distancing optional was met with mixed reactions from parents. While some were relieved about the changes, others remain concerned about the potential health implications.
“About time,” Chelsea Baker said. “It should have been optional much sooner.”
“It makes zero sense for the grade schoolers who cannot be vaccinated,” Asia Frye said. “The reason school has been safe and without breakouts is because of the precautions. Removing precautions that work is absurd.”
“I am angry,” Jessica Wexler-Soubaiaga said. “I kept my daughter home last year because I am immunocompromised. Now that I am vaccinated, I was hoping to let her attend regular school. She is not old enough to be vaccinated, therefore I will have to keep her home at least through the fall semester with the hope she will be eligible in the fall. These changes should have been applied only to the middle and high school where kids and families have the option to be vaccinated.”
While McPherson Public Schools have been implementing mask wearing and social distancing, other schools have seen success without those precautions in place.
“Our St. Joseph School students have been without masks or masks optional and it is time for our public kids to have the same option,” Olivia Fetsch said.
The McPherson County Health Department reports there are currently three active cases of COVID-19 in the county. All of the individuals are currently recovering at home and there are no hospitalizations.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly announced on June 4 that 50 percent of Kansans over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated.
“I’m pleased at our state’s consistent progress in getting shots in arms – but we still can’t take our foot off the gas,” Governor Kelly said. “Every Kansan must get vaccinated to protect our communities, our schools and our economy from future outbreaks, and maintain our steady return to normal.”
The CDC reports that 50 percent of Kansans 18 and older have been fully vaccinated, and 59.9 percent of Kansans 18 and older have been vaccinated with one dose. Additionally, 38.5 percent of all Kansans are reported as vaccinated, with 46.9 percent of Kansans having received one dose.
“While vaccinating half of all Kansans 18 and older is a significant milestone, hospitalization rates among young people are rising nationwide. It’s critical that all Kansans age 12 and older get vaccinated,” Governor Kelly said. “Health experts continue to demonstrate a thorough, deliberate review process when it comes to vaccines, making safety the number one priority in vaccine approval. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective, and free – I encourage all Kansans to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated.”
Any McPherson County resident, 12 and older, who wishes to be vaccinated, is encouraged to contact their primary care provider or the McPherson County Health Department. To date, 11,838 vaccine doses have been administered in McPherson County.