LPS will not require masks for middle, high school students

LPS released an updated version of their 2021-22 LPS Safe Return to School Plan on Wednesday.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – LPS says they will not require masks for middle and high school students in their 2021-22 LPS Safe Return to School Plan.

Elementary schools will require students, staff, visitors, volunteers, and families to wear masks inside the buildings. All students will be required to wear masks on buses regardless of grade.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Joel cites vaccination status for their reasoning.

LPS believes only 20-25% of their Kindergarten thru 5th-grade students are vaccinated, so the district believes masks need to be mandatory until parents have more time to get their child the shot.

LPS will review community conditions and vaccination rates on Jan. 30 to determine if face-covering protocols will continue for those in K-5.

“While the numbers aren’t strong right now, with regard to the ages 5 to 12 vaccination percentages, we think those are beginning to tick up,” Dr. Joel said. “But there is probably more time that needs to be allocated for families to make that decision, make those appointments, and get that done.”

The plan includes updated COVID-19 protocols for the rest of the 2021-22 school year for LPS students and staff.

If a school building has 10% or more of its population absent due to illness, LPS will require students, staff, and visitors to wear a face-covering for two weeks.

“Our hope is that we don’t get to 10%, but we’ve gotten close,” Dr. Joel said.

Anywhere there is a COVID positive case in your child’s school building, families will be alerted.

However, LPS will no longer be Contract Tracing. Dr. Joel says it’s a time-consuming task, and with loosening of mask requirements, it would be impossible for staff to continue doing that.

The plan also includes updated COVID-19 protocols for the rest of the 2021-22 school year for LPS students and staff.

“We’re just going to ask that people have some faith in this plan, with the hope that we can keep our kids in school, that’s our end goal,” Dr. Joel said. “We want our kids in school, we don’t want anyone to be quarantined, we don’t want anyone to be in isolation. We know that when children are removed or have to be removed from the classroom setting, that’s an academic and social setback.”

LPS is once again asking families to strongly consider getting their kids vaccinated.

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department plans to work with LPS in the event the number of cases in a specific classroom, grade level, team, or school results in mask requirement.

On Tuesday, Health Director Pat Lopez announced the mask mandate will expire on Dec. 23.

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