Omaha-metro area parents worry as children head back to school without mask mandates

A Children’s Hospital pediatrician has advice on what parents can do to help keep their children safe
WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 10:53 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - On the heels of a handful of school districts not implementing mask mandates Monday night, parents across the Omaha-metro are left worried as classes begin.

“We had started having the conversation with our kids about two weeks ago that they were going to be wearing masks to school regardless of what Millard’s decision was,” said Michelle Kloppenborg, who has four children in the Millard Public School District.

Millard’s board members took no action on masks Monday night, instead, leaving it up to parents.

“We’ve had those tough conversations given that we have a medically complex child in the house going to school as well,” said Kloppenborg. “We started that conversation really early on with them about their mask doesn’t just protect them it protects those around them and their siblings as well.”

Children’s Hospital Pediatrician Dr. Sharon Stoolman said that’s exactly the conversation to have because it’s important for children to understand why they are wearing a mask.

“It’s a way to keep me healthy and also a way to keep other people healthy and usually children are really interested in being helpers,” said Dr. Stoolman.

As much as they do want to help, Dr. Stoolman notes bullying will still likely happen. She’s already seen it at summer schools.

“I do think it’s great that we’re having this discussion because I do think there will be those conversations. Why are you wearing that? Are you scared? Why are you scared?” said Dr. Stoolman, suggesting parents downplay it.

“Can you just walk away from it and ignore it, ‘yeah, I wear a mask,’ or of like ‘yeah, I wear glasses, yeah I have freckles,’” said the doctor, noting if they are still having a tough time, it’s important for children to know they are supported. “If they’re unable to do that to walk away and talk to the teacher or your parent.”

The rest is up to the parents said Dr. Stoolman.

“Unfortunately, our children role model us and so just the same way we adults are having conflicted conversations they’re going to role model those as well,” said the doctor.

As for Kloppenborg, she said the conversations are helpful because the reality of school beginning without a mask mandate is still concerning.

“Oh my goodness, this is really happening, starting on Wednesday morning and I don’t know, we’re really worried in general,” she said.

Dr. Stoolman also recommends parents consider having their children wear surgical masks, noting the highly contagious delta variant merits the extra protection.

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