UNK prepares to return to school with new COVID-19 precautions

Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 10:20 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Last year UNK required everyone to wear a mask when indoors on campus until spring semester when they relaxed precautions.

Now this year with a case count much lower than last and with the vaccine out, the precautions are much more lax for both students and faculty. Both masks and vaccines are highly encouraged...But not required.

“We’re not requiring vaccinations. However we are encouraging everybody to show up vaccinated, that’s students and employees,” Todd Gottula with UNK Communications and Marketing told Local4 News. “We’re offering free vaccination clinics here on campus, as well as free testing. We ask that people do wear a mask when indoors, but it’s not required.”

While the school feels comfortable with their decision, the UNK Education Association thinks teachers should have a say for their classroom.

“What we would like to see is the policy is to allow faculty who for reasons of perhaps having immediate family members that because of their age cannot get the vaccine or have family members who are immuno-compromised are allowed to require in their classrooms that masks be worn,” UNK Professor and UNKEA Member William Aviles said.

Teachers are allowed to request their students to wear a mask, but they can’t require it.

“Many of our students, I think, are reasonable and would be willing to do that,” Aviles said. “I just don’t think it makes sense to leave it up to having that right mix of sutdents willing to engage and pursue that policy and permit that policy.”

Gottula said this is just a small portion of their pandemic plan, and they’re still doing a lot to keep their students and staff safe.

“I think it’s unfortunate that there is a focus on this one bullet point in the policy,” he said. “UNK has done a lot to protect people in the last year. From equipping classrooms with technology to offer classes remotely to free vaccinations to free hand sanitizer and masks. You can go up and down the line.”

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