Scottsbluff Public Schools released the final version of its fall reopening plan on Thursday, with masks as the cornerstone piece to an in-person fall semester.
The announcement comes just over two weeks before the start of school in Scottsbluff. Across the state and county, school districts are making historic decisions about reopening amid a deadly pandemic.
“With this whole thing, we are playing it by ear,” district Superintendent Rick Myles told the Star-Herald. “We recognize that every day, we may need to flex and we may need to reconsider.”
The centerpiece of Scottsbluff’s plan is a mask requirement.
In its plans, the district said officials recognize a mask requirement is a “flashpoint” but said that staff concerns and the prospect of quarantining made the decision a necessity.
In a recent voluntary survey, the district found that over 48% of its staff and parents said masks were an important component of a safe school environment. The same survey said that about half of the overall respondents “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with a mask requirement.
However, because the survey was voluntary and online — and so it’s respondents were limited to people willing to fill out the survey and access to the internet — the results may not be representative of the whole population of Scottsbluff parents.
The possibility of quarantining was also listed as a reason for the controversial mask requirement.
The logic is that if an outbreak occurs involving a student or staff, according to the plan, those people wearing a mask may not have to quarantine for two weeks if they were wearing a mask. On the other hand, if an outbreak occurred, those exposed without a mask would have to quarantine for two weeks.
“You lose a teacher, you lose a classroom,” Myles said during a recent board meeting discussing the district’s plan.
The plan specified that special considerations would be made for students who couldn’t wear a mask. The district will also offer an online option for remote learning to parents who don’t want to send their students to school or students who refuse to wear a mask.
The plan also included a rigorous sanitation routine.
Myles said the plan will likely need updating in September, if local and global COVID-19 conditions change.