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'Mask optional' extended to PLCS middle schools

'Mask optional' extended to PLCS middle schools

“Mask Optional” extended to PLCS middle schools - p1

From left, PLCS Superintendent Andrew Rikli joins PLVSHS Titan Band leaders Joe Homan and Grant Leavell and members of the Titan Band to celebrate their NSBA Grand Championship victory at the Monday, Nov. 8 meeting of the Board of Education.

PAPILLION — As planned, middle schools in the Papillion La Vista Community School district will join high schools as “mask optional” areas, starting Wednesday, Nov. 10.

The PLCS Board of Education approved the new unmasking plan in October with a 5-to-1 vote. Board members received a schoolwide health update at its Monday, Nov. 8 meeting. All of the board’s business had been concluded before an armed man was detained by Papillion Police.

While COVID-19 positive cases in the region are moving up, the uptick in PLCS is primarily within kindergarten to sixth grade, moving from 10 to 25 in week 13.

The numbers of cases in the district’s two high schools, where masks have been optional for two weeks, have held steady at around five cases for six weeks. Middle schools have had the smallest number of COVID-19 infections throughout the fall semester, around two cases for seven weeks. Both middle and high schools report six positive cases in week 13.

In a presentation to the board, PLCS Communications Director Annette Eyman said one of the statistics the district monitors is absences, which normally averages in the 300 to 350 range or 3% of the student population.

Last week, there were 446 absences or about 4%, higher than average but not outside of the norm for this time of year. At their peak this semester, there were 739 absences in the fourth week of the year, leading to the reimplementation of the mandatory mask policy.

Eyman said absences are not a major concern at this time, but the combined growth in numbers “aren’t trending in the way we want them to.” However, the plan will proceed for middle schools to transition to optional. Elementary schools will remain under a mandatory mask rule until at least January as the district urges the use of the newly FDA approved children’s’ vaccines.

Despite the next stage of the plan being implemented, most of the nearly 50 attendees were unsatisfied.

In an exciting and mood-lightening presentation, members of the Papillion La Vista South High School Titan band were in attendance to receive the praise of the board for their Nebraska State Bandmasters Association 2021 Grand Championship victory.

The band earned the second highest score in the competition’s history. In addition to the overall title, the Titan Band was also won the Class AA Championship, and awards in Best Visual and Best General Effect for their program “All Aboard.” The band is directed by Joe Homan and Grant Leavell.

In other Board of Education news:

Adopted the State of Nebraska English Language Arts Standards in the subject area of English Language Arts (reading and writing.)

Approved a bid and authorized a construction contract with Cheever Construction Company for $5,049,000 for an addition to Liberty Middle School. The project consists of approximately 25,000 square feet of new addition and 500 square feet of light renovation at Liberty Middle School.

Approved the addition of a sidewalk to connect the north parking area to the stadium at Papillion La Vista High School for the cost of $83,406. Funding for the project will be available from bond/construction funds.

The PLCS Board of Education will next meet on Monday, Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. at the PLCS Central Office, 420 S. Washington Street.

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