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Nebraska teachers union calls for mask mandate

Published: Jul. 24, 2020 at 12:57 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 24, 2020 at 4:37 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - With schools “a few short weeks” away from welcoming students and teachers back to area classrooms, the Nebraska State Education Association is calling for a face mask mandate in Douglas County, particularly in Omaha.

Teachers in five area school districts believe everyone who lives in Douglas County should wear a mask to protect students and teachers as the metro prepares to return to class.

Education associations representing the districts are all onboard, sending a letter to the Douglas County Board of Health requesting the mandate.

School officials say some teachers are concerned about returning to school during the pandemic.

Teachers are hoping officials will hear their voices and concerns expressed in the letter.

Education associations from Omaha, Elkhorn, Ralston, Westside, and Millard all agree that mandatory masks in the county is necessary to help schools reopen safely.

“We decided to write the letter because all of us have been talking to the teachers we represent in our respective districts and there’s just a lot of fear and anxiety right now about the rising cases in the community,” said Tim Royers, president-elect of the Millard Education Association. “It’s the recognition that no matter what kind of safety protocols we put in place in our schools there’s still rapid growth of the virus in the community at large then we’re putting ourselves and our students in danger if we’re back in school.”

School officials say they are doing all they can to make the return to schools safe, but they need help.

“It takes all of us. It’s not just going to be on the teachers and students to have this school year be successful. It’s going to take everybody. So please do your part -- wear a mask, do those things now. We can’t wait until August 10 or August 17 to start being safe. The time is now to start doing this stuff,” Royers said.

Officials say the Omaha City Council also received a copy of the letter requesting all residents of Douglas County be required to wear a mask in public.

NSEA sent letters Friday to the Douglas County Board of Health and the Omaha City Council citing advice from the Centers for Disease Control “in support of a mask mandate for all citizens.”

The letters also call for quick action:

“We urgently ask that you act to immediately to require masks be worn by all members of our community to help ensure the health and safety of children, school staff and all our citizens.”

Read the NSEA letters

The full text of both letters reads:

On behalf of the educators who live and work in Douglas County, we are writing in support of a mask mandate for all citizens.

We are just a few short weeks from the start of the school year and teachers are eager to reconnect with their students. Yet, if we cannot do so with the appropriate health measures in place and enforced, the lives of all students and school staff are at risk.

We agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics that children older than 2 should wear masks, unless wearing a cloth face covering may exacerbate a physical or mental health condition, lead to a medical emergency, or introduce significant safety concerns. Just last week, the Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Robert Redfield said, “If all of us would put on a face covering now for the next 4-6 weeks, we could drive this epidemic to the ground.”

We urgently ask that you act to immediately to require masks be worn by all members of our community to help ensure the health and safety of children, school staff and all our citizens.

The safety and health of students, staff and families are paramount as decisions are made about physically reopening our school buildings. The lives of children, educators – and those of the family members they come home to – are at stake.

Sincerely,

Jenni Benson, President, Nebraska State Education Association

Carla Rohwer, President, Elkhorn Education Association

Tim Royers, President-elect, Millard Education Association

Paul Schulte, President, Millard Education Association

Robert Miller, President, Omaha Education Association

Jane Leadabrand, President, Ralston Education Association

Teresa Matthews, President, Westside Education Association

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