GIPS to require masks, child psychologist weighs in

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 9:30 PM CDT, By Diamond Nunnally on​​

Earlier this week, Grand Island Public Schools announced face coverings would be required. On Thursday, they voted unanimously to make it an enforceable policy.

“It's a formal expectation, and it is enforceable," said Robin Dexter, Associate Superintendent for Student Services at GIPS.

Now all students, staff and teachers must wear face masks at all times. If kids don't wear them, then they will not be allowed in school. Students who are unable to wear masks because of health issues or religious reasons, must communicate with staff. They will either find the student another face covering or suggest opting for virtual classes.

The school district is working closely with the health department. Officials said wearing a mask is important in reducing the spread of the Coronavirus.

“If everyone in the classroom has a mask on and someone ends up testing positive, we know that everyone in that classroom was low risk because they had their mask on. So we don't need to quarantine them, we just ask them to observe their symptoms," Teresa Anderson, Director of the Central District Health Department.

It may be hard for kids to get used to wearing a mask, so parents should start preparing them now.

“We're going to talk about it in a way where the parents validate the kids feelings," said Carley Starling, a Clinical Psychologist at Boys Town Center for Behavioral Health Clinic in Grand Island. “They validate those fears but we also say this is why we're wearing the mask, so you can see your friends, so you can see your teachers."

According to Starling, the key to get kids adjusted to wearing masks, is by setting an example. Parents should wear masks around their kids to show them what will be expected at school.

“Modeling by parents is going to be the most important thing. If a kiddo has to wear a mask at school, we have to start practicing at home," said Starling.

The doctor also suggests role playing with kids who have special needs. Parents can wear a mask during their favorite activity or for example, play with it by putting it on a toy.

Every kid is different and must be taught based on their needs. Some children need parents to be more hands-on to help them understand and adjust. If a child is having a hard time getting used to this new normal, parents can contact a therapist at Boys Town Hotline at 1 (800) - 448-3000, or the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1 (888)-866-8660.

Watch the full story here​.