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By LuAnn Schindler

New mask mandate in effect for Summerland students

New cases identified in region


October 1, 2020

Summerland School officials announced Monday all students in grades preschool through 12th grade will be required to wear masks.

The decision came about following an increase in COVID cases and exposures in the district and surrounding communities, according to an alert sent to district patrons at approximately 4:35 p.m.

On Monday, the North Central District Health Department announced 41 additional cases were reported in the district, including 10 cases in each Antelope and Holt counties.

Other counties reporting new cases include Brown, six; Knox, six; Pierce, four; Boyd, two and Cherry, three.

As of press time, Tuesday, NCDHD’s risk level registered 1.50, as reported Sept. 23, up from 1.19 the previous week.

The health risk dial is updated weekly on Wednesdays and can be accessed at!/vizhome/RiskDialCounties/NCDHDRiskDial.

On Sept. 25, Summerland Superintendent Dale Martin addressed the district’s mask policy in a letter, noting student and staff welfare are a priority.

The letter stated the Center for Disease Control and NCDHD supplied guidance to schools to prevent the spread of coronavirus and maintain classes if possible cases are reported.

The initial mask mandate, issued Sept. 23, included grades three through 12.

Martin explained the rationale behind not including younger primary classes in the original mandate.

“Grades four through 12 are involved more in youth and school activities that involve different communities and there was some question about how well the younger students would understand and follow the mask mandate,” he said.

Friday’s letter also stated, “One of their recommendations has always been to have students and adults wear masks, especially in areas of the school where 6 feet of social distance cannot be maintained. The health department has also advised us that if we have a person who was exposed to or has COVID in the classroom and everyone is wearing a mask, there is a strong likelihood that only the student or adult would be isolated or quarantined. The rest of the class could stay in school.”

Staff members are implementing mask breaks in a variety of ways.

Martin said administration has encouraged educators “to find times during the day to go outside and unmask, use the gyms and other open areas and spread out six feet in the classroom as well.”

Another concern the district faces, due to COVID concerns, is a lack of substitute teachers.

Some subs had already decided they were not willing to work in the schools this year.

“We were already somewhat short there,” he said. “Then you add in the number of staff that either have the virus, are quarantined or need to stay home and take care of their children and it becomes even more difficult to find qualified people for possibly two weeks at a time for each case.”

Martin said the school’s plan for dealing with the pandemic continues to evolve as conditions in the communities, in addition to health guidelines, change.


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