Omaha Public Schools requiring masks for all staff, students

Other local school boards also meeting Monday night
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 8:33 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - During a special board meeting Monday night, Omaha Public Schools instituted a mask policy for all its students and staff.

The school board’s 8-1 decision came after more than an hour of public comment on the matter. Spencer Head, representing Subdistrict 5, dissented.

Superintendent Cheryl Logan said she and board have been under a lot of pressure in recent weeks to get on board with updated guidance coming from the CDC and local health officials, calling on schools to mask up this fall as the COVID-19 delta variant spreads.

Earlier this summer, OPS said they planned to start the new year with masks as an option, but in a letter to parents on Friday, they said they were reconsidering, citing the rising number of cases across the Omaha-metro and a priority to keep students safe — especially since many of them are too young for a COVID-19 vaccination.

Other school districts also planned discussions on the upcoming school year, some specifically noting masking policies on their agendas for Monday night meetings:

Earlier this week, Westside Community Schools decided to require masks indoors for students who are too young to be vaccinated against the virus.

Ralston Public Schools updated its COVID-19 plan Thursday saying masks will be required indoors for elementary schools, with staff having the option to mask, regardless of vaccination status, but staff will have the option to mask or not when they’re not around students. All students of any grade level, however, will have to wear masks while riding on school district transportation, and middle and high school teachers will have to track which students are wearing masks in case of a reported exposure down the road.

Elkhorn and Bennington school districts have said previously that they plan to begin the school year without requiring students to wear masks, but recent spikes in the area could prompt them to revisit those decisions.

Douglas County Health Director Dr. Lindsay Huse said in a statement Friday she is encouraging widespread mask use as the Douglas County Health Department works to contain the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant in the Omaha area.

Dr. Huse said Friday that the health department is working with school districts on how to “best implement recommendations in their districts, based on their own deep knowledge of the people they serve.” She said that may include mask policies or use of masks once transmission occurs, noting that “when cases arise, we will handle them on a case-by-case basis.”

Last week, the CDC put out updated guidance on masks, calling on anyone entering a K-12 school this fall to mask up. The American Academy of Pediatrics said the same thing.

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