Dear Parents and Families,
It is great to have students back in school.
There is obviously a lot in the news about COVID, vaccinations, masks, no-masks, variants, hospital beds, quarantines, etc. We are currently in a mask optional status for the district and I have been asked about when/if mask mandates are coming. If one person asks, I’m sure there are others that might be wondering some of the same things. I hope this provides a little clarification.
As of now, the state and Public Health Solutions, don’t have any current Directed Health Measures (DHM’s). This means that there aren’t quarantine or mask rules. People who test positive for COVID are still required to isolate. I have heard that some doctors have advised people that test positive have their close family members quarantine, but as of now this isn’t mandated, but a good practice. If you have a positive in your house it would help prevent spread if you would have your children quarantine and not attend school. We will continue to provide remote learning services in those situations.
We are no longer receiving county COVID data from Public Health Solutions. At present, since the emergency order has expired, counties below 20,000 people aren’t able to have their data published. Public Health Solutions is still monitoring case counts closely and will continue communicating directly with us if they see case counts raise or have concerns on a potential outbreak situation.
Although I am able to follow county information on the national CDC site, I think the best data we receive at this point is from our school buildings. I touch base with our principals each morning to find out the number of students and staff not at school. We also discuss if any of these absences are related (isolated or quarantined) due to a positive COVID test or a high risk contact. This information may change daily. We will continue to monitor this for as long as we need.
We will look at total numbers, numbers by building, numbers by grade, and even by classroom as we continue through the school year. We will rely on this information to help us make decisions on mandatory masking in the future. Should that be required we are looking at this a little differently this year. It is possible that we could have a mask mandate in a specific classroom, grade level, or building and the rest of the students in the district would continue as is, or it could be the entire district. We want to be targeted with these decisions. Furthermore, we would set each of these mask mandates at two weeks or four weeks. They would then be looked at prior to the end of the scheduled time period to see if we need to extend the mandate for that group of students. We hope to use mandates as needed and not as a blanket coverage for the entire district or for the entire year.
I know one fear that exists because of what happened in March of 2020, is that if we had to close a class, building, or district that we wouldn’t reopen this year. If we had to close any classes, buildings, or even the district, we would again do it with a specific time frame. This time frame might vary based on time of year, type of spread we are seeing, and other factors or guidance from Public Health Solutions and medical experts.
I realize that this is an extremely unnerving time. Many people are worried about the health of our students and staff, many are worried about remote learning, many are worried about mask mandates. I think we all agree that we want students safely in schools. I hope that we will be able to keep our students and staff safely in school and in their activities this entire year. We know that we will have positives in our buildings, so I encourage you to continue monitoring your child(ren) for symptoms as we move through this school year.
The recommendations coming from the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and from the American Academy of Pediatrics are for students to wear masks. We support any family and child that choose to wear one. I know some parents have asked if other students are wearing them. I do see some students beginning to wear masks, so your child wouldn’t be the only one if you choose to send them to school with a mask.
I have also been asked about vaccines, ages, and places to get vaccines. I believe that people can get a vaccination at Walgreens and Walmart locations. You can also check with your local provider or Public Health Solutions or go to Vaccines.gov to sign up for a vaccine.
I hope that this information helps answer some questions.
As always, thank you for partnering with us.