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Masks vital to keeping schools in session

Greg Mast
gmast@ottawaherald.com
Ottawa superintendent Ryan Cobbs said wearing masks is a key component in keeping schools open.

Wearing masks is vital to keep in-person classes in the Ottawa school district.

Ottawa Superintendent Ryan Cobbs said masks protect students and staff.

“The one definitive preventive protocol that we know works are masks,” Cobbs said. “As we gain more information about them we have learned that the type of mask that we wear will have an impact on our students. Therefore, we recommend that our students wear one of the following: procedure masks, surgical masks, N95 masks — probably best reserved for our health care workers — or a double layer cloth face covering. It has been identified that single layer masks are not effective and therefore are not approved by the FCHD [Franklin County Health Department] for schools.”

The Ottawa students returned to full-time in-person classes this month. Cobbs said the transition to in-person classes has gone well.

“We are now several weeks into our return to a full day of school for most of you and I want to thank [patrons] for your support and help in making this transition be as smooth and successful as it has been,” he said. “We certainly could not have done this without your patience and support.”

The district and the Franklin County Health Department have protocols in place when students or staff test positive for COVID-19 or have close contact with a positive test.

“If a student tests positive for COVID 19, the other students in the classroom will not be recommended for quarantine if they are wearing the appropriate mask as outlined,” Cobbs said. “Thus the importance of not only wearing a mask, but wearing an approved mask appropriately. If your child does not have an appropriate mask — the school can provide if you do not have one — you may be recommended for quarantine while others may not be.”

Those involved in extra-curricular activities such as athletics also have protocols in place with a positive case.

“If a student-athlete participating in a sport or activity is positive for COVID 19, that sport or activity will cease for 7 to 10 days,” Cobbs said. “For the students who are not the positive test on the team or activity, at the 7-day mark after exposure, they may choose to be tested by the FCHD. If that test is negative ,they may return to the activity at that time.”

Kansas and Franklin County positive cases have spiked in November. Cobbs said the district is learning all it can to combat the impact of the virus.

“As we continue to learn more about this virus, we continue to become more informed about how we combat it and which mitigating strategies are most effective,” he said. “As we draw closer to the holiday season, we ask that [patrons] keep our students in mind and the opportunity they have to attend school in person and compete in athletics/activities.

“We know that wearing masks is the most crucial component for our ability to do so. We continue to work hard at keeping our schools safe so that our students aren’t forced into a remote learning environment, or that we have to suspend activities.”