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More districts modify COVID-19 rules after Schmitt letter

Two Kansas City area districts are dropping mask mandates and modifying quarantine rules in response to Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s threats to file legal action against districts over the regulations.

Kearney and Smithville school boards met in special sessions Monday to discuss a ruling from a Cole County judge last month that school districts and local health agencies do not have the authority under state law to impose health orders.

Schmitt, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, cited that ruling last week when he sent letters to dozens of districts and local health agencies demanding they stop enforcing COVID-19 mitigation policies. He has also encouraged parents to report any school districts that continue to enforce the restrictions.

The Columbia School Board also voted Monday to drop mask requirements and modify quarantine rules but a district spokeswoman said the vote had nothing to do with Schmitt’s letter, The Columbia Missourian reported.

The court ruling and Schmitt’s letters have caused confusion for school districts. Some have modified their COVID-19 regulations while others have argued Schmitt does not have the authority to enforce his demands because their rules were created by locally elected officials.

The Smithville school district will make masks optional in early January, while Kearney will drop its mask mandate on Dec. 23, officials decided. Masks will still be required on school buses, The Kansas City Star reported.

Quarantine rules will not be eliminated. Students and staff who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or who test positive still will be excluded from school. Those who are identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19 will not be excluded from school if they do not symptoms, or are fully vaccinated, or had COVID-19 within the previous three months.

Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled last month that health orders issued by local authorities under state health regulations were unconstitutional.

On Monday, Jackson and St. Louis counties filed legal action seeking to overturn Green’s ruling. The counties accused Schmitt of creating “chaos” across the state with a “campaign of litigation terror.”

The court order was to go into effect Dec. 22 but Schmitt has said school districts and local health agencies should immediately drop the COVID-19 regulations.

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