9 Shawnee Mission middle and high schools will require masks after first day of new semester

Shawnee Mission South students

Following the first day back from classes after winter break, most of Shawnee Mission School District's middle and high schools returned to mask rules. Above, students at SM South during the fall semester. File image.

Nearly all middle and high schools in the Shawnee Mission School District will begin requiring students and staff to wear masks at school again following the first day back from winter break Wednesday.

According to a district spokesperson, the schools that will return to masking include:

  • SM East High
  • SM West High
  • SM North High
  • SM South High
  • Horizons High
  • Indian Hills Middle
  • Indian Woods Middle
  • Trailridge Middle
  • Westridge Middle

The only secondary schools apparently not impacted after Wednesday are SM Northwest High and Hocker Grove Middle School.

During the first semester, Shawnee Mission required universal masking at all its schools.

The district’s  COVID-19 mitigation plan for the second semester calls for optional masking in secondary schools, a policy reaffirmed in a narrow 4-3 vote by the school board in a special meeting Monday night.

But the plan also says that if any individual school’s percentage of students who test positive, are presumed positive or are in quarantine surpasses 3%, that school will reinstitute mask rules for all students, staff and visitors.

On Wednesday, those nine schools hit that threshold, according to the district.

Parents and families began receiving communications from building principals Wednesday evening saying that their children would be required to wear masks at school.

“I am writing to inform you that Shawnee Mission South High School has exceeded the 3% threshold for exclusion and quarantine,” SM South Principal Todd Dain wrote families in a letter. “This means that students and staff will be required to wear masks for at least the next two weeks, and until exclusions and quarantines are below the 3% threshold.

“While outside of school, we are urging all students and staff to follow all COVID-19 mitigation procedures, including vaccinations for all who are eligible, and mask-wearing in public places.”

According to the district’s COVID-19 plan, mask rules at these schools will remain in place until the percentage of students impacted by positive cases or quarantines drops below 3% again.

A return to masking was an outcome not wholly unexpected.

School leaders and public health officials have been sounding the alarm for the past two weeks about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the Kansas City metro, which has led to record-shattering new case numbers and hospitalizations.

SMSD Superintendent Michelle Hubbard said Tuesday during the University of Kansas Health System’s daily COVID-19 briefing that that district was “fully prepared” to return to mask mandates at individual secondary schools if need be.