Beginning last Monday, Northwest Public Schools has been requiring all students and staff members to wear masks while at school.
This decision was not easily made as the district’s school board had preferred to recommend, but not require masks. But the change was made after someone from the school district tested positive for COVID-19, resulting in more than 100 Northwest students being instructed to quarantine for 14 days.
This is a large portion of the Northwest student body. The district, with the advice of the Central District Health Department, realized the threat that the coronavirus poses to its students and staff members and took action to minimize it.
According to Northwest Superintendent Jeff Edwards, the district’s students have adapted well and understand the reason for the mask mandate.
“Most of our teachers have been masking up since school started,” said Edwards, so the mandate has not affected them much.
If students didn’t have a mask, the school provided them with a cloth mask.
School district officials plans to reevaluate the situation weekly in determining whether the mask mandate will continue. It is doing everything it can to ensure it recognizes the individual rights of staff members and students while still protecting the health of the entire Northwest community.
This policy change was needed and is totally appropriate, considering the threat that the coronavirus continues to pose in central Nebraska and throughout the state. During the past week, the state reached 35,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and topped 400 deaths.
As of Friday, the three counties in the Central District had reported 2,058 cases and 59 deaths. Its risk dial had risen from 1.5 last week to 1.9, at the top of the moderate section of the dial.
These statistics just confirm what the CDHD has been saying, that we are not out of the woods and need to continue to take all the preventive measures we can, maintaining a 6-foot distance from others whenever possible, wearing face coverings when around other people and avoiding large crowds.
It is important that our children be able to attend school in person, but that will not be possible if they aren’t following these measures while at school. For our schools to continue to be open, everyone must be wearing masks while in the schools. Then, if someone tests positive, it isn’t necessary for everyone who has been around that person to be quarantined.
It’s great to know that the students at Northwest Public Schools, as well as Grand Island Public Schools, Grand Island Central Catholic, Heartland Lutheran High School and Trinity Lutheran School, can safely attend school. It’s also encouraging that all our schools are providing virtual experiences for students who can’t be at school.