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Masks will be optional at Papillion La Vista schools this year

Masks will be optional at Papillion La Vista schools this year

The Papillion La Vista Community Schools will not require students, teachers or staff to wear masks next school year, officials announced Monday.

Masks will be optional at all grade levels under the district’s back-to-school plan.

“This is our plan as of today,” board President Brian Lodes said. “We will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed.”

The district's first day of school is Aug. 12 for some grades.

The plan is based on lessons learned last school year, consultation with the Sarpy-Cass Health Department and a favorable experience in this year’s summer school, officials said.

No COVID-19 cases have been reported to the district among about 1,000 athletes and students using school facilities this summer, spokeswoman Annette Eyman said.

At the middle and high schools, there will be no social distancing required in the cafeteria or classrooms, Eyman said. That’s because students in those grade levels are eligible for vaccination, she said.

Elementary students, who are not yet eligible for vaccinations, will be required to stay 3 feet apart during lunch, Eyman said. That will help to accommodate students who need a mask, such as to protect vulnerable family members, but must remove the mask to eat, she said.

The COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for children under age 12. There is speculation that it could be approved in the fall.

Children 12 and older are eligible, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that they get vaccinated.

Release of the district's plan comes just days after the CDC issued new guidance for K-12 schools.

The CDC said masks “should be worn” indoors by all people 2 and older who are not fully vaccinated.

“Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CDC said.

It said that “consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

The CDC recommended that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.

When that's not possible, such as when schools cannot fully reopen while maintaining those distances, it is especially important to layer other prevention strategies, such as indoor masking, the CDC said.

Eyman said it's challenging for school officials, parents and community members to sort through differing guidance.

"You've got the CDC, you've got the local health departments, you've got DHHS, you've got the governor," she said. "You've got all sorts of different sources weighing in, and not everybody's saying the same thing."

Millard Public Schools officials announced in May they are planning a “full reopening” with masks optional.

The Omaha Public Schools have not announced their back-to-school plan., 402-444-1077

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Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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