Public school leaders urge Johnson County Commissioners to keep mask order in place

Leaders of Johnson County's six public school districts, including Shawnee Mission's Superintendent Mike Fulton (pictured above) and Board of Education President Heather Ousley, are urging the Board of County Commissioners to keep a mask order in place.

The leaders of Johnson County’s six public school districts signed a letter Wednesday addressed to the Board of County Commissioners and county manager, urging Johnson County to keep a mask order in place.

Why it matters: The signatories, which included Shawnee Mission Superintendent Mike Fulton and Board of Education President Heather Ousley, said continuing to require Johnson Countians to wear masks in public was “critical to helping decrease the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community” at a time when schools are trying to gradually reopen and bring students and teachers back for in-person learning.

What they said: The superintendents and board of education presidents for the Blue Valley, Gardner-Edgerton, Olathe, Spring Hill and USD 232 districts also signed the letter. In it, they said:

  • “Our communities are desperate to have schools open, and students safely back in class. Unfortunately, the county has struggled to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the community, and this spread has made it difficult to make progress towards getting all students back in school.”
  • “There is a broad consensus in the medical and scientific community that wearing masks is critical to stopping the spread of the virus.”
  • “This is a community-wide challenge, and none of us can do it alone. Please help us by continuing the county-wide requirement that face masks be worn in indoor public spaces and in situations when social distancing cannot take place.”

The bigger picture: Last week, state legislative leaders voted to extend Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide emergency proclamation to Oct. 15. That includes an executive order that requires masks be worn in public or in situations where social distancing is not possible. However, dozens of counties had previously overruled that order and have not required masks be worn locally

In July, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners voted 4-2 (with one commissioner abstaining) to affirm Kelly’s mask order and did not put an expiration date on it.  The BOCC is set Thursday, Sept. 17, to consider the mask order again.

Go deeper: Some Johnson County officials say they have ‘responsibility’ to model mask-wearing, while others often go without masks in public