Mask policies: Here’s where Omaha-metro school districts stand

Several local school boards discussed masking policies at meetings Monday night. Here’s what they decided — or didn’t.
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 6:26 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Students in many Omaha-metro school districts are heading back to class in coming days. For most of them, masks will be optional.

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

Omaha Public Schools: Earlier this summer, OPS said they planned to start the new year with masks as an option. But during a special board meeting Monday night, the district instituted a mask policy for all its students and staff. The school board’s 8-1 decision — with Spencer Head, representing Subdistrict 5, dissenting — came after more than an hour of public comment on the matter.

Millard Public Schools: During its very long meeting Monday night, the board heard four hours of testimony but didn’t take a vote on the matter. Stacy Jolley made the motion to require masks for students ages 12 and younger — sixth grade and below — but the motion died for a lack of a second. The board will revisit the data at its next meeting, slated for Sept. 7.

Bellevue Public Schools also met Monday night but also didn’t take a vote on mask use, meaning the district’s current plan stands: Face coverings are strongly recommended, but “OPTIONAL” for unvaccinated staff, students, and visitors — but may be required should an outbreak occur.

Bennington Public Schools also met Monday night, voting to recommend masks, but not mandating them as part of its back-to-school plan.

Papillion-La Vista Community Schools decided during its meeting Monday to stay the course on the district’s back-to-school plan. The superintendent stated that he supports masking and that if infections go up, they would have to revisit the policy.

Gretna Public Schools also met Monday night, but COVID-19 protocols were not on the agenda. The district’s current policies recommend but do not require — masks for unvaccinated staff and students in classrooms and buses. Masks are not mentioned as part of the response to positive cases.

Westside Community Schools decided last week to require masks indoors for elementary schools, most of whom are too young to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Ralston Public Schools updated its COVID-19 plan last week 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 Public Schools has 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.

Fremont Public Schools went back to class on Tuesday. The district’s back-to-school plan states that masks are not required, but are encouraged for unvaccinated staff and students.

Iowa school districts aren’t allowed to institute a mask policy as Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill banning face mask mandates in May, though some local parents are planning to head to Des Moines on Wednesday to protest the ban.

When does school start?

Tuesday: Fremont Public Schools

Wednesday: Millard Public Schools; Plattsmouth Community Schools – Grades K-9

Thursday: Ralston Public Schools – Grades 7 & 9; Papillion-La Vista Community Schools – Grades K-7 & 9; Gretna Public Schools; Bellevue Public Schools – all but Grades 10-12; Plattsmouth Community Schools – Grades 10-12

Friday: Ralston School District – all the rest; Bellevue Public Schools – returning students Grades 10-12; Nebraska City Public Schools

Monday: Omaha Public Schools – elementary schools

Aug. 17: Omaha Public Schools – entry-level middle & high schools; Westside Community Schools – elementary, Westside Middle School 7th-graders, 9th-graders, and new high school students; Elkhorn Public Schools – all grades; Arlington Public Schools – all grades

Aug. 18: Omaha Public Schools – all other middle- & high-school students; all remaining Westside School District students; Bennington Public Schools – all grades; DC West Community Schools – all grades; Creighton University; Blair Community Schools; Springfield-Platteview

Aug. 19: Elmwood-Murdock Public Schools

Aug. 23: Council Bluffs School District – all grades; UNO; Missouri Valley

Aug. 24: Glenwood Community Schools – Grades 3-12; Lewis Central Community Schools – all grades

Aug. 25: Glenwood Community Schools – Grades K-2

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