When members of the Hastings Education Council meet on Monday, they will act on a proposal to recommend face coverings at the start of the school year, but that policy could change quickly if necessary.
This was the administrative recommendation that Superintendent Jeff Schneider presented at the school board working session Thursday as part of the district’s return to safe learning plan.
The board meeting takes place Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Hastings Middle School Multipurpose Room, 201 N. Marian Road.
âObviously we’ve given it a lot of thought,â Schneider said. âWe realize that no matter what is decided, it will be difficult. We have heard arguments for and against the mask requirements. I’m pretty sure we’ll hear from them again.
HPS officials have been in contact with health officials as well as officials from other school districts.
The recommendation to recommend masks instead of requiring them is subject to change depending on the situation in the community and could change at any time.
The number of local cases is low, but increasing.
There were 504 responses from parents to a survey on the district’s website asking parents to demand masks.
Schneider said 75% want recommended masks and 25% want a requirement.
Among parents of elementary school students too young to get vaccinated, 79% wanted recommended masks.
Responses from staff echoed responses from parents.
âI think right now, based on many people I’ve spoken to, there will be very few schools west of Lincoln with a mask mandate,â he said.
There is no clear answer to this, Schneider said.
He was contacted for physical and mental health issues.
âIf you look at last year, most of our country didn’t go to school,â he said. âIf we had followed all of the directions given to us, we would have had to go for 50% occupancy and the kids only went part-time and we wouldn’t have had any activities. This is not what we chose to do in Nebraska. I don’t know if there is a simple answer. I know this: there will be nothing that we will pay more attention to in either direction as it is an ongoing challenge. It’s a big decision. It is not easy.
Board member Brent Gollner said the situation was not new to the region.
âNone of us take this lightly,â he said. âWe all take this very seriously. No matter what we choose, it will be something we struggle with every day. None of us want our children to be sick. None of us want our staff to get sick.
Other less controversial aspects of the district’s Safe Return to Learn plan include encouraging outdoor classrooms as well as social distancing whenever possible.
âLast year it was recommended 6 feet,â said Schneider. âThere was no way to do that and have kids in school every day. What we can do, especially at elementary maybe, is 3 feet. That’s not to say that they don’t go for small group work every now and then, but what we’re going to be strongly encouraging is to do social distancing as much as possible. “
The plan includes allowing time for hand washing and disinfection, which will be emphasized.
High traffic areas will be disinfected several times a day.
The district will ask parents to keep sick students at home and will ask the same of staff.
The district will contact the community when the district has positive cases via a list on the website, like last year.
âI think that’s what I’m going to come up with on Monday night, but it’s Thursday,â Schneider said of the mask recommendation. “The way it’s going, who knows? This is my plan from now on. I wanted you to know this now so that you had time to think about it and do what you think is best on Monday night.
Also during the working session, Schneider reviewed the preparation of the 2021-22 budget. The total proposed budget will be approximately $ 49.8 million.
The property tax levy rate is proposed to stay the same: $ 1.12 per $ 100 of assessment to support the general fund, 2.2 cents for various projects, including the high school science wing, and 20 cents for the bond fund, for a total drawdown of $ 1.342.
This means that for a property valued at $ 100,000, the owner would pay $ 1,342 in property tax to support the school district for the year.