‘There is reason to be concerned’: Beatrice Public Schools resumes classes Thursday mindful of COVID-19 Delta variant

BEATRICE - Beatrice Public Schools resumes classes tomorrow, Thursday, and while all are excited to get back to the classroom in a year that will be normal for the first time since 2019, Superintendent Jason Alexander is still mindful of the public health situation surrounding the COVID-19 Delta variant.

“There is reason to be concerned with the increase in cases that we see, and especially the age level,” Alexander said.

In the last 14 days, Nebraska has seen just over 4,300 new COVID-19 cases. However, in the Public Health Solutions district, which includes Beatrice, as of August 5, those numbers are much lower. In addition, 42% of the population is vaccinated.

“Our local statistics are what we are going to pay the most attention to,” Alexander said. “What’s going on in our community, in Beatrice.”

Beatrice was one of the first districts in the state to repeal a school mask mandate last spring. To start the school year, this will remain, but a mandate will be put in place if the district positivity rate surpasses 10%.

“Right now, we’re starting the year mask optional,” Alexander said. “We’ve been through this now for a year, I think we’re wiser than where we were a year ago, but we still have to remain cognizant.”

Many school districts across Nebraska have dealt with backlash from parents opposing school mask mandates. Alexander said factoring in the concerns of parents would be necessary if a mask mandate were to be considered.

“No matter which side of this debate you are on, to mask everyone or to mask no one, we have to find a way to work in the middle in a way in which everyone is comfortable,” Alexander said. “We want to make sure we’re doing the right things for the safety of our staff and students, but we also want to make sure we’re doing the right things by our parents.”

Alexander said most faculty and staff are vaccinated, but the district will continue to monitor daily COVID-19 data, remaining ready to change their mandates if needed.