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Millard students will likely wear masks in the fall, and other districts haven't ruled it out

Millard students will likely wear masks in the fall, and other districts haven't ruled it out

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Students in the Millard Public Schools will likely be wearing masks at school in the fall and could face other substantial changes because of COVID-19.

The district has ordered 60,000 masks, two masks for every teacher and student, officials said.

There would be some exceptions to wearing masks — for instance, medically fragile children, an official said.

The school board was briefed Monday on the district’s preliminary plans for reopening buildings for the 2020-21 school year.

Under the plans floated by district administrators, kids would be washing and sanitizing hands repeatedly throughout the day, coming and going from classes.

“We are ordering buckets and gallons of hand sanitizer,” said Chad Meisgeier, the district’s chief financial officer.

Teachers and paraprofessionals would be asked to help wipe down desks between every class period.

Lunch menus could change with limited food choices.

Although officials hope to start on time, the calendar could be modified, including a potential late start and trimming out breaks.

Whatever plans are implemented, officials said they are aware of the burden that distance learning and irregular class schedules would put on working parents and staff with children.

Officials said they expect to adhere to the state’s recommended guidance, including the recommendation that masks be worn when social distancing is not feasible.

Board President Linda Poole said some decisions are made at the state level and the district has no control. “If they say kids have to come to school with masks on, yeah, they do ... ,” she said. “So some of it we don’t have control of, but we’re trying to do what’s best for kids and our community.”

It’s not clear if other districts will take the same approach as Millard. When asked about requiring masks when school starts, most Omaha metro area public school officials told The World-Herald that it’s too early to say for sure.

Officials in the Papillion-La Vista Community Schools have ordered masks for their staff.

“We have put in an order for masks — not the disposable — the cloth double-sided,” Papillion-La Vista Superintendent Andy Rikli said.

“Our hope on the student side is that we’re going to order some masks for students,” he said. “I don’t know if we will get to a point where we will order one mask for every student.”

School officials are still not sure if students will be learning remotely, face to face or some combination in the fall because of COVID-19.

Rikli said if students are allowed back in school every day, and the health department requires masks, his district may have to order more.

If students are again learning remotely, then there won’t be a need, he said.

Omaha Public Schools spokesman Jeremy Maskel said Monday that with both the federal Centers for Disease Control and Nebraska Department of Education recommending masks, “it is part of our consideration when planning.”

“The specifics, though, will be determined as we get closer to the coming school year and have more information on health conditions and guidance,” he said.

OPS officials want to maximize in-person learning time for students, while prioritizing health and safety, he said.

Current CDC guidance says schools should “teach and reinforce use of cloth face coverings.”

The CDC also says schools can determine in collaboration with state and local health officials “whether and how to implement” the guidance in light of local circumstances.

The CDC says face coverings may be challenging for students, especially young ones, to wear in all-day settings such as school.

Face coverings should be worn by staff and students as feasible, it says, and are most essential in times when physical distancing is difficult.

Coverings should not be placed on children under 2 or those who have trouble breathing or are unable to remove them without assistance.

State guidance effective Monday recommends masks as well as a limit on class sizes.

It allows groups of up to 20 people to gather for summer school, camps and programs, which could be extended to the fall and guide districts.

joe.dejka@owh.com, 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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