LPS students & staff won’t be required to wear masks when the new school year begins

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Lincoln Public Schools will be taking a targeted approach when it comes to masks as it prepares to reopen campuses on Aug. 15.

There will not be a blanket mask mandate when school begins.

New Superintendent Paul Gausman spoke about the divisive issue during Tuesday night’s Lincoln Board of Education meeting.

He says it’s probably what he’s heard the most about from both parents and staff since arriving here.

Gausman told everyone in attendance that it’s important to keep in mind that LPS is a large district, so what’s working for one school may not work for another.

The overall goal is to keep schools open and safe, Gausman said.

LPS school board member and OneHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bob Rauner said the key is following the science and data.

“Lincoln has the lowest mortality of any community around us because we did the right things,” Rauner said. “We did mask at the right time. We did close some things down at the right time. Our vaccination rates are better than those around us. You add it all together, it shows that our community worked. Our mortality rate was about a third of Mississippi and about a half of rural Nebraska and our surrounding states. It means that we did it the right way and we need to continue to follow that data.”

Gausman also called this an opportunity for adults to show students how we can all work together to handle challenging situations.

Right now, there is no threshold in place that would trigger a mask mandate.

However, health experts are still encouraging parents to get their kids vaccinated before the start of school.

“There was a time when people didn’t have the option to vaccinate, so we needed to protect those kids until they had that option,” Rauner said. “All parents do have the option to vaccinate their kids right now. It’s free, it’s accessible at pediatrician’s offices, at pharmacies. We have school vaccination sites that we set up intermittently. So, people should avail themselves to that.”

With the amount of exposure kids get to one another during school hours, experts say the best way to stay safe from severe illness and keep schools open is to be prepared.

“I think that’s where we need to make sure our children are vaccinated and then boosted,” said Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, chief of infectious diseases at CHI Health. “When they go back to school, when school starts, if you have such a prevalence in the community, of course you are going to transmit in the classroom as well.”

The LPS superintendent said anyone is welcome to come to school wearing a mask.

The district said a lot of variables in play, and it will continue working with the health department to make the best decisions possible.

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