Adams Central Public Schools will be requiring face coverings as a way to help keep students in the classroom when they reopen next week.
The Adams Central Board of Education voted 5-1 at a special meeting Monday to approve a reopening plan for the school, which requires face coverings for students and staff whenever they are in the school buildings or at school activities.
Chad Trausch, vice president of the board, was the lone dissenter. He said the mask requirement will take away from classroom time as teachers work to enforce the policy and students struggle to adapt to learning with a face covering.
“I truly believe wearing face masks will affect our students’ learning,” he said. “Student learning is our first and foremost priority.”
While older children may be able to adapt to learning while wearing a face mask, Trausch said, the school district should not be telling parents what to do. In talking with people in the community, he said most people didn’t think the schools should require masks.
Board member Chris Wahlmeier said the mask requirement has been a topic about which people are passionate, but the main focus of the board is to get children back into the classroom.
“We had to come up with some way to begin the school year,” he said. “I do believe this gives us the best chance to start school safely.”
Wahlmeier said the plan isn’t set in stone through the school year. As recommendations from health officials change, he said, the board will continue to adjust the plan as needed.
“It’s probably going to look different in a couple months,” he said. “We just have to be flexible.”
Superintendent Shawn Scott was to send a letter to parents in the district Tuesday morning explaining that it was a hard decision to make, but it’s in the best interest of the students as the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic continues.
The decision was based on many factors, he said. Most importantly, it gives the district the best opportunity to keep students in school for the entire academic year. Wearing face coverings, along with frequent hand washing and social distancing, helps the school meet its main goal of wanting students to be in school safely, and also meet guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, University of Nebraska Medical Center and South Heartland District Health Department.
“The health department has stated that mask usage will be a determining factor in who must quarantine after a positive test,” Scott wrote in his letter to parents. “If wearing face coverings can limit the number of staff and students who would need to quarantine following a positive case, then masks must be worn to help AC have school safely. This is just one of the many adjustments the district has made to reduce risk to students and staff, while still providing a quality education.”
The school district will be providing five white cloth face masks to every student and staff member on the first day of school. The school also has a limited number of face shields for students who may need it. Students are highly encouraged to have at least two face masks with them at all times so that in case something happens to one, every student has a spare.
Students and staff are allowed to bring their own face coverings as long as they meet the guidelines of a face covering. Face coverings must be school-appropriate and not cause undue distractions. They can’t be big or bulky, or have obscene or offensive language. Bandanas won’t be allowed.
The district will be building time into each day where students will get a break from wearing masks. This likely will be outside while maintaining social distancing.
Scott wrote parents can help in the transition by speaking positively about wearing a mask, and by finding a mask their child is comfortable with and wearing it at home for extended times before the first day of school on Aug. 12.
The face covering requirement applies to everyone except for special circumstances for students who have an individualized education program or disability plan.
The district won’t have an option for students to learn remotely, or online learning, while school can be held in person unless the student has a special education program.
An educational plan will be developed for any student who is isolated or quarantined from temporarily attending school.
The district’s COVID Response Framework document will be posted on its website, adamscentral.us. The document includes many adjustments the school will be making on a day-to-day basis. It was reviewed by health experts, school personnel and the local health department before being approved by the school board.
The overall plan is reflective of the South Heartland District Health Department COVID Dial, with color-coded risk levels of green, yellow, orange and red. Scott wrote the plan needed to be flexible to the changes of our community and school needs.
The board also approved a resolution to allow the superintendent to work with a COVID committee to make adjustments as the school year continues.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 10 at 6:30 p.m.