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Hastings Public Schools announces new mask policy

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 10:42 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Hastings Public Schools held a board meeting Monday night where members decided to change the mask policy once again.

Starting Wednesday Hastings schools will only require masks for students, staff, faculty and visitors if 12% of students in one building were absent due to illnesses for three consecutive days. The requirement would last for 14 days and be moved back down to a recommendation if the number of illness-related absences fell below that 12% threshold.

HPS Superintendent Jeff Schneider said there were reasons they’ve decided to update the policy once again.

“We needed something in place that parents could rely on knowing, ‘This is how it’s going to be handled,’ not wondering ‘How long’s the requirement going to be put into place,’ you know, ‘How long’s the recommending’ as opposed to, ‘Here’s our plan.’ People were screaming for measurement,” Schneider said.

Schneider added, since students had returned to classes this fall, the high school had reached that 12% of sickness-related absences in previous weeks. He also said HPS wasn’t the only school district in Nebraska with similar masking policies.

“We patterned this much after a program that Columbus Public Schools used,” Schneider said. “They’re using something similar. We contacted them and looked at their plan and tweaked it a little bit, to make it fit our community, but we very much leaned on Columbus’ experience with this.”

As of September 14, 2021, HPS had experienced around 70 cases of COVID-19. Schneider noted this amount was significant when compared to last year’s cases, but as far as he was aware, none of the district cases had yet resulted in serious illness.

Schneider said if a school was approaching that 12% of absences, the district would keep a close watch on the numbers. If the number of student absences reached that percentage, they would send out a mask requirement announcement within 24 hours.

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