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Millard’s Black Elk Elementary has COVID-19 breakout, closed Monday

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Millard Public Schools logo(WOWT / Millard Public Schools)
Published: Oct. 31, 2021 at 6:10 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 31, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Millard Public Schools announced Sunday that Black Elk elementary school will be closed on Monday due to rising cases of COVID-19.

The outbreak was first reported last week, when Black Elk verified it had four classrooms closed. Since then, it was required to shut down a fifth and sixth classroom, which is 25% of the building, causing the entire school to close in order to slow the spread of the virus, and in accordance with its policy.

Rebecca Kleeman, director of communications at Millard Public Schools, wrote in an email Sunday evening that after receiving word of these additional cases at Black Elk, the district decided to close the school.

Principal Sarah Rozeboom also sent out an email stating that there will be additional information provided to students and parents on Monday.

Black Elk Parents tell 6 News that they are concerned about what’s next for their kids.

Amy Scott, who has two children attending Black Elk Elementary, was one of the parents notified of Monday’s closing in an email Sunday night. She said she thinks the situation could have been avoided.

”If the district would have mandated masks from the get-go, I don’t think we’d be sitting in a situation where I know Black Elk is past 25 cases — that was Friday’s number,“ she said.

More cases piled up over the weekend, prompting the district to close the entire school, not just the six classrooms most affected.

That was the right call, said Shannon Flock, whose daughter attends the school.

”The only way to stop this at this point is to get everyone out of there for a week or two,” she said.

Flock is one of the many parents who have been calling for a mask mandate since the start of the year.

“This could have been prevented had masks been in place from the beginning,“ she said Sunday.

Masks were a must at Millard Public Schools last year, helping to keep kids in school.

“If we could’ve done what we did last year, I think it would have been better for everybody,” Scott said.

The rush of COVID-19 cases did trigger a temporary mask mandate at the school that will last until Thanksgiving, but some say it’s not enough.

“Masks need to be in play until these children can be vaccinated,” Flock said.

The FDA authorized a low-dose Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for youth ages 5-11 last week. On Tuesday, a special advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet to consider detailed recommendations for administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to younger children.

In the meantime, children are being kept home, and parents are left scrambling.

“We’re suffering the same consequences now with sick kids, missing work,” Scott said. “It’s a lot of stress, and it didn’t have to be that way.“

MPS didn’t say how long Black Elk will be closed, but did say it’s keeping in close communication with parents.

6 News has reached out to the district asking for the exact number of cases now confirmed at the school and will update this story with that information once it’s provided. As of Sunday night, the district’s website was still reflecting 25 cases at Black Elk.

The board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday night at the Don Stroh Administration Center, 5606 S. 147th St.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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