School’s COVID cases trigger mask mandate

Lincoln Elementary School had enough students and staff members with COVID that it triggered a two-week face mask mandate for the building starting Friday morning until Dec. 16, when they go on winter break.

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December 3, 2021 - 3:37 PM

Face masks that Derby resident Melissa Dodge uses to protect herself at her grocery store job. Dodge has no health insurance. Photo by COURTESY PHOTO/KCUR.ORG

An increase in the number of COVID-19 cases has triggered a face mask mandate for all students and staff at Lincoln Elementary School. Under the school district’s policy, third- and fourth-grade students will be required to wear masks until the end of the semester, effective Dec. 16.

The mandate was triggered on Thursday, when the number of positive cases reached 4% of the school’s student body and staff. It’s the first time such action has been taken since the school board adopted the policy in September. 

At Lincoln, that 4% number translates to seven students and staff. 

Lincoln staff notified Superintendent Stacey Fager on Thursday morning it had reached that threshold. Parents and staff were notified, and were required to start wearing face masks on Friday.

Students will be dismissed for winter break on Dec. 16, a day before the two-week period expires.

Fager is optimistic the winter break will give families a chance to recover from any illnesses, and students can return to classes in January without masks.

“We hope it will be a nice reprieve. This just shows, day by day, week by week, how you can’t predict what will happen,” he said. 

“Our board has set policies in place, and we’re just following the policies we have to keep schools as safe as we can.”

He also said he believes the district’s COVID protocols are effective, as schools have gone nearly an entire semester without reaching 4%.

The increased number of COVID cases also has meant an increase in the number of students being tested on a daily basis. Students who have been exposed outside the home, such as at school, can be tested each day and remain in class. As of Tuesday, 21 students were being tested throughout the district.

THE NUMBER of positive cases has nearly triggered the face mask requirement a couple of times. Iola High School was just one illness away on Oct. 19. Two weeks ago, Lincoln was also just one illness away.

The 4% threshold, or the number of COVID cases it would take to trigger the mask mandate, are:

• McKinley (preschool and kindergarten): 8

• Jefferson (first and second grade): 7

• Lincoln (third and fourth grade): 7

• Iola Middle School (fifth through eighth grade): 15

• Iola High School (ninth through 12th grade): 15

THE Pfizer COVID vaccine was recently approved for children ages 5 and older. It’s a lesser amount than that prescribed for adults.

Iola schools will offer a vaccination clinic for all students and staff on Thursday, Dec. 9. 

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