Parents scramble as Millard school shuts doors after COVID-19 outbreak

WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Nov. 1, 2021 at 11:06 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Parents were left scrambling Monday afternoon as Millard Public Schools announced Black Elk Elementary is shutting its doors for two weeks amid a COVID-19 outbreak.

Angela Bosak describes the past 24 hours as chaotic; her son is a kindergarten student at Black Elk Elementary.

“It was kind of a panic,” she said Monday. “Last night, we were in the middle of trick-or-treating when we got the email that school would be closed today.”

Then came another email less than 24 hours later; Millard Public Schools notified parents Black Elk Elementary will be closed until Nov. 15 to try to slow down the spread of the virus. At the time, the school had 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“This afternoon, it came through that we’re going to be out for two weeks and it’s just kind of this mad scramble,” said Bosak, who teaches at one of Millard’s high schools. She said the plan is to teach from home so she can also care for her son.

The district is working through the details of remote learning with the goal of getting it underway Wednesday.

“Just trying to process how to get that all done is a lot — dealing with the craziness of a 6-year-old and trying to also teach my classes,” Bosak said.

She said she is disappointed that Millard Public Schools didn’t do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I just think it was possibly somewhat preventable and there were things that could’ve been put in place that didn’t happen and I wish it would have,” said Bosak, who was one of many Millard parents calling for a district-wide mask mandate at the beginning of the school year.

Some of those parents had their say Monday evening in front of Millard’s school board.

“Five-hundred and sixty-five students have had their families scrambling to find help for two weeks because there were no masks, in schools where there were masks, we haven’t had classes shut down,” said a concerned parent.

“If their child’s classroom or whole school building is closed for two weeks, what is the district going to do to help those struggling families? Many of us are worried about our neighbors,” Cindy Maxwell-Ostdiek said.

“Black Elk has not been an ideal situation,” said Dr. Jim Sutfin, superintendent of Millard Public Schools. “It’s one that hit us really hard. We’ve followed our protocols, we’ve masked everyone, we’ve masked the building as best as we could in order to prevent the spread; and in this case, it just happens.”

Sutfin also told parents when staff and students return to Black Elk in two weeks, masks will not be required.

“We’re confirming with Douglas County we should be able to come back to an unmasked environment,” he said.

The superintendent also noted that Millard will host a vaccine clinic next Friday evening. If the CDC gives its final approval, the plan is to vaccinate kids ages 5-11.

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