Omaha’s new mask mandate is switching two west Omaha school districts — Millard and Elkhorn — from optional to required masking.
Officials with the Millard and Elkhorn school districts notified families Tuesday afternoon that beginning Wednesday their students and staff will have to wear masks indoors.
“If it’s a citywide mandate, then we have to comply. We’re in the city,” Millard school board member Linda Poole said.
The Omaha Public Schools and Westside Community Schools already have mask mandates in place.
Students in private and Catholic schools inside the city would also presumably have to wear masks.
In a note to Elkhorn families, Director of Communications Kara Perchal said masks would be required for all individuals inside all district facilities, including transportation vehicles and during school-sponsored activities and events.
If a child comes without a mask, the district will provide one, she said.
A note to Millard families said that because the mandate happened quickly, the district would provide extra masks at the schools.
Millard school board member Mike Kennedy expressed concern about the short window of time to prepare.
“I am very concerned that Dr. Huse has not further consulted with the school districts about her decision,” Kennedy said. “It leaves very little time for families to prepare for (Wednesday).”
Douglas County Health Director Lindsay Huse issued the mask mandate Tuesday for schools and many other public indoor spaces in the city of Omaha.
Huse cited an “astronomical spike in cases” that is threatening to overwhelm already-strained hospitals and health care workers.
The Millard school board has resisted imposing a districtwide mask mandate despite the appeal of some residents to require masks.
Kennedy said the Millard community has spoken “overwhelmingly” against mandatory masking. More than 80% of Millard families have not been sending their children to school masked, he said.
Last week, Millard Superintendent Jim Sutfin said he didn’t want to impose a district mandate. He said there should be a community response, and if there was, then Millard would align with it.
World-Herald staff writer Lauren Wagner contributed to this report.