Education Association Recommends Widespread Mask Use in Schools

July 15, 2020, 5:15 p.m. ·

Cloth face masks made in Lincoln (Photo courtesy of Meredith Klein)

The Nebraska State Education Association is recommending widespread use of masks as students return to school next month.

Maddie Fennell is executive director of the NSEA, which released a set of guidelines for schools to use based on the level of coronavirus in their area.

"You truly can have some places that may be able to start school safely because there’s no COVID in the community, there’s no COVID in the county." Fennell said. "Whereas there are other places where there are still high instances and growing numbers of COVID in the state, where they really need to be careful about where they’re at in schools."

The guidelines are recommendations, and each district will make its own final decisions. In areas where COVID-19 is still prevalent, the NSEA recommends anyone over the age of 2 who is physically able should wear a mask in school.

Fennell said districts need to be ready for difficult questions, like, what will happen if a teacher or student gets sick or dies?

Fennell is particularly worried about the availability of substitute teachers, who she says are often older and at a higher risk for coronavirus. Fennell is also worried about students and teachers.

"We’re very concerned about being realistic around the numbers. If your number of COVID cases in your county are going up, why would you be starting school?" Fennell said. "Some people almost talk like kids are immune to this disease. They are not immune. Kids have died from this disease and have gotten sick from this disease."

She added that with appropriate professional development, educators can be creative to meet students’ needs, whether it’s in-person, online, or a hybrid.