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Kansas governor orders students and teachers to wear masks when schools reopen

Kansas governor orders students and teachers to wear masks when schools reopen
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Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed an order Monday mandating all students, teachers, faculty and visitors to public or private K-12 school buildings or facilities wear face coverings. 

“I will continue to use every resource and tool available to this administration to protect Kansans and keep our economy open for business, regardless of the political pushback,” Kelly said in a statement

The order exempts the face coverings requirement when people are eating or doing activities that cannot be safely conducted with a mask or other face covering. It also exempts children who are not students and those under 5 years old, as well as people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. 

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The order also mandates six feet social distancing, except for in-person instruction in classrooms when face coverings are worn. It also requires hand sanitizers in all classrooms and that all students and faculty sanitize their hands no less than once every hour. 

Kelly also shared details of an order that would delay schools from beginning any in-person instruction from August through Sept. 8. Kelly can only sign the order if it is approved by the Kansas Board of Education. 

The governor had announced last week that schools in the state would not open until after Labor Day, and had said she planned to share details of the executive order Monday. 

“The additional three weeks will provide schools time to work with their counties to get the necessary mitigation supplies like masks, thermometers, and hand sanitizer, while providing local districts time to thoroughly review the curriculum options from the State Board of Education to figure out what strategy is best for their district,” Kelly said in her statement Monday. 

“Putting nearly half a million kids and faculty in daily, large gatherings is the exact opposite of what health experts have urged us to do,” she added. 

The order delaying schools from opening would also include athletics and other extracurricular activities. 

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The board, made up of eight Republicans and two Democrats, has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, according to The Kansas City Star

The Board of Education approved reopening guidance from the state department of education last week. It leaves the decision up to districts on how to operate schools, whether with in-person instruction, virtual instruction or a combination of the two, depending on the level of COVID-19 outbreaks in their communities, according to the newspaper. 

Kansas has reported a total of 23,544 coronavirus cases and 318 deaths, according to state data.