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Hastings Public Schools to not require masks for new school year

Hastings Public School Board Meeting
Hastings Public School Board Meeting(KSNB)
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 10:08 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - The Hastings Public School Board held a public meeting Monday night to talk about their ‘Safe Return to Learn’ plan which includes a recommendation, not requirement for students to wear a mask.

The crowd was pretty split as far as for a mask mandate versus against it, but ultimately they voted 7 to 2 for just a recommendation.

The mask recommendation was only one portion of the precautions they put into place for the new school year.

They will also ask their teachers to use outdoor classrooms when possible, encourage social distancing and allow extra time for students to wash or sanitize their hands.

The Board said this was a difficult decision they didn’t take likely.

While the debate over how to return to school was heating up, there was one thing almost everyone agreed with which is that they’re ready for the new year to begin.

Hastings Middle School hosted a lunch Monday afternoon to welcome new teachers and talk about the year ahead.

Deb Lyons is a reading teacher and one of the hosts of the lunch as the President of the Hastings Education Association. She said she supports the mask recommendation because teaching to read without seeing the students mouths was really hard on her.

“It will be good to be able to see kids faces and mouths as they practice reading,” Lyons said. “It was kind of a problem last year with some kids, but we made it work and we’ll keep on going, whatever we need to do.”

Another host from that event was Maddie Fennel, Executive Director of the Nebraska State Education Association. She said she trust the schools to take care of their staff and students in the most safe way possible.

“I think as long as people are following the best guidance out there and they’re really listening to the professionals in this,” Fennel said. “I know we all want to do whatever we can to not only keep our staff safe, but keep our students safe. So if school boards are relying on that scientific evidence, we have great faith they’ll make decisions that are in the best interest of their students and their staff.

Rising cases of COVID-19 and the risk of spread isn’t the only concern schools are now facing. All across the state, many districts are seeing a shortage in teachers, paraprofessionals and many other positions as well.

“When I was driving in here and saw the Burger King was offering $15 an hour, it’s really difficult when the school districts are offering significantly less and not for a full year,” Fennel said. “We know school districts are having to look at how they’re compensating their teachers and paraprofessionals as part of the rising wages in the job market right now.”

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