The Garden City USD 457 Board of Education approved the addition of operational level 3.5 to the district’s COVID-19 plan at the board’s regular meeting Monday.


There were six levels in the district’s COVID-19 plan, with Level 1 being no restrictions and school held as normal and Level 6 being totally remote learning.


Level 3.5 differs little from Level 3. The only marked change is the requirement of masks for students at all grade levels.


Before the addition of Level 3.5, masks were required for grades five through 12 but were at teacher discretion for pre-K through fourth grade.


USD 457 public information officer Roy Cessna said the addition of Level 3.5 gives the district a little more latitude at the operational levels, as the higher levels are more restrictive.


Cessna said Level 3.5 also helps keep schools open as data, research and information from the health department shows that "wearing a mask keeps us in school."


Level 3.5 is still on-site learning with enhanced protective measures and group gathering limits, just like Level 3.


The enhanced protective measures include daily symptomatic screening by teachers; handwashing before and after lunch and after recess; small work groups with social distancing and masks; assigned seating, modified lunch schedules — students eat in classrooms or some in classrooms, some in the cafeteria; large group classes held outside or socially distanced; and limited mixing of people as much as possible.


The board also approved changes to the Athletic Operation Level in the COVID-19 plan to mirror KSHSAA guidelines requiring all spectators, coaches and workers at sporting events to wear masks.