OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) – In a 6-1 vote, the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education approved a proposal requiring all children and staff in grades PreK-12 to wear masks in all district facilities.

Thursday night’s meeting lasted less than 30 minutes. Board members voted to require masks for all students and staff. They also removed an option for teachers to opt out of masking with proof of vaccination.

“The goal here is to not only to get kids in school that first day, but to keep kids in school,” said Board of Education Vice President Dr. Mary Sinclair.

“Research would tell us that masking our kids last year kept kids in school as popular as it may be or not be,” Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Dr. Michelle Hubbard said.

Four members of the Board are out of town and attended the meeting via Webex.

“We cannot end up in a situation where children are not in their seats learning,” Board of Education President Heather Ousley said. “It’s not good for kids. It doesn’t provide an opportunity to close the learning gap from last year.”

At-Large-Member Brad Stratton was the only school board member to vote against the proposal to extend mask requirements through the 12th grade. On July 26, the board previously approved mask requirements for elementary school students.

“I was fully prepared to reiterate the county's decision today and to stand by that,” Stratton said. “I was very pleased with their conversation and their ultimate decision today, and I was not prepared to go beyond the 6th grade. That’s why my vote reflected that today.”

Six audience members voiced their opposition to the board’s decision, saying they oppose mask mandates. The group also attended today’s Johnson County Board of Commissioners meeting to voice opposition to a public health order.

“I’m supposed to be in Olathe and then they throw this one in. That’s why you don’t see the crowd here because they are in Olathe tonight,” Debbie Detmer said.

“I appreciate you being here,” Shawnee Mission Northwest Area Member Jamie Borgman said to the audience. “This is not anything we signed up for. I’m just asking for our community to place the blame on the board and not teachers, building administrators or any other staff.”

The mask requirement is in effect until further notice.

Several board members said they are hopeful vaccination rates will increase and infection rates will decline so that mask requirements can come to an end.

“I am sorry that we're in this situation and that the numbers in the county have continued to go up but, at the end of the day, I had to watch a funeral on Monday; my husband's cousin passed away from COVID,” Shawnee Mission North Area Member Sara Goodburn said.

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