School district changes masking policy

Lillian Ardis, Staff Writer/Photographer

Masks have been one of the strongholds on the COVID-19 pandemic, of course no one likes them at all. They have caused humongous outburst since the beginning of the pandemic, many have been calling for mask mandates to be lifted so we can return to a ‘normalcy.’

On Tuesday, Feb. 8 the USD 305 school board decided to consider the option of relaxing the now mask mandate in all of their buildings to make masks optional. Mask are now optional for not only students, but staff as well. 

The new masking criteria implemented depends on the school building. If a school building’s COVID-19 positive cases goes 5% or over masks will be required for two weeks. Although still per the federal mandate, masks will still be required on all school transportation. You can see more information at

The board of education stated they, “wanted students’ voices to be heard,” yet when a student wanted to speak up about the issue, they were brushed off by the board. Discussing masks was not allowed because the mask mandate was on the action agenda.

As most of us know, masks are now the first line of defense against this COVID-19 pandemic. On Jan. 13, the CDC released a statement that if school are to have in-person classes, it’s highly recommended to have universal masking from grades K-12. 

Besides, regardless of CDC recommendations now is clearly not the time to be lifting the mask mandate. More and more states are announcing plans to end mask mandates in schools and other public places. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against lifting such requirements, citing the country’s still-high rate of new infections. “Now is not the moment,” the agency’s chief, Rochelle Walensky said.

CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky states, “The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather.”

Multiple schools in the state of Kansas have done the same thing that the USD 305 board of education is trying to do right now. When lifting the mask mandate, it’s a clear risk of doing so. 

In Kansas, in the week of Jan. 18, two big school districts in that area had to shut down their schools due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Olathe, and Kansas City both had to shut down their schools due to the simple fact of lifting their mask mandate. 

Superintendent Brent Yeager, said the cancellations were unavoidable as more than 800 school employees, about 20% of all Olathe schools’ staff, were out sick heading into this week. Yeager said more than 1,500 students had the virus last week. Kansas City public schools released they had 200 teacher positions unfilled that week. 

In an email poll of 227 Salina South High School students, only 51.8% reported that they are fully vaccinated.  Vaccinations do not prevent student from getting COVID-19, yet it protects them from getting severely sick from it, with a poor immune system or not.

Junior Kailenna Pheuisomphou thinks the idea of lifting the mask mandate is a poor decision.

“I was talking to fellow students about the two week time span. It’s still going to affect you and it’s going to go up. They think masks are a way to silence us but masks to keep us safe. Other countries can enjoy their lives because they actually listened to the protocols,” Pheuisomphou said.

Other countries that started masking at the very beginning of the pandemic are much more successful in the means of the COVID-19 response compared to the United states. 

“Given the health issues in my immediate family, I am very nervous about being around anyone who isn’t mask whether inside or outside of school,” teacher Shana Pittenger said.

Some students and teachers are worried about the outcome of this. Students and staff are either more at risk to the high contractible virus, or their family members are.

Although some people are most trusting in the school board, with the decision of making the mask mandate optional.

“School boards will make decisions that can be unfavorited. They’re getting access that we at a classroom level don’t get to see. I’m comfortable with trusting in the school board’s choice,” teacher Collin Carlson said

The school board has an over reach over the entire district, because of that more people are most trust in their judgement because of this. They don’t have only one school to oversee; people believe they have the resources to maintain this highly contagious and deadly virus throughout the entire district.