Westside responds to "irate messages" demanding shutdown

Posted at 12:13 PM, Mar 09, 2020

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Over the weekend, Westside Schools made the announcement that the district would remain open despite some families having possible contact with Douglas County’s first confirmed coronavirus patient. Monday morning, Superintendent Mike Lucas sent out an update, responding to “irate messages” demanding the district’s closure.

Superintendent Lucas sent out the following to Westside families:

Good morning, Westside families -

It has been an eventful weekend with lots of updates and such regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please rest assured that we are working on this situation on an hourly basis. We had four to six district level administrators working on it all weekend and our building leaders are working on plans as well. We are participating in conference calls, zoom sessions, and lots of work behind the scenes.

As we prepare for another great week, right here, right now, we have ZERO confirmed cases within our organization to include students and staff. In fact, we are unaware of anyone within District 66 that has any symptoms (cough, fever, shortness of breath) at this time.

As we have already communicated, we know that we did have some participants and some spectators at the Special Olympics event in Fremont on February 29th.

  • We are not naming any specific buildings that these folks came from because we are operating under the assumption that every single one of our buildings has someone that has been exposed to COVID-19 through "secondary contact," which has an extremely low risk level according to the Douglas County Health Department.
  • By naming buildings, we fear that buildings that are left unnamed will be assumed to be scot-free and we can't guarantee that. We don’t know which buildings had people that walked around the Westroads Mall this weekend or went to a crowded youth sports complex, or sat next to someone in a movie theater, or ate at a nice restaurant with someone that might have been exposed to COVID-19 so we are assuming all and that's why it is important to wash hands, self-monitor for symptoms, etc.

Russ Olsen, Director of Facilities, and some of our amazing building services staff spent extra time this weekend cleaning in facilities throughout the district. They will continue to hit this hard as we look to control what we can control. We can control what we do and how we do it. We can't control each individual family's reaction to this unique situation. It is an interesting time.
We are receiving irate messages from some parents demanding that we close schools immediately. We are receiving just as many irate messages from parents demanding that we stay in school. HERE’S THE DEAL – for families that think it is best to keep their children home, please do so. Simply, let our schools know and we will do our best to provide them with timely assignments and support. For families that think it is best to send your children to school, please keep doing so. We are going to continue to provide great structure and learning opportunities for those that attend.

Do what YOU think is best for your family. Making threatening or malicious comments over emails to school administrators, via social media, or through phone messages isn’t going to sway our decision making. We are going to continue to get advice and support from some of the most talented medical minds in the world that are luckily just a few miles away.

Due to the fact that we have ZERO confirmed cases, we are planning on a regular week of school with Friday being a scheduled, non-school day. We realize that Fremont and Plattsmouth school districts have decided to close for the week. They must feel that is in their best interest. At this time, we feel it is in our best interest to remain open with the mindset of “business as usual" working with the great kids we get to educate every day.

This is my 17th year as a superintendent in Nebraska and this is a unique and difficult situation. Some families will applaud our stance while others will detest it. We assume some of our staff members will like this approach and others will not. We are doing what we think is best based on the info we have gathered from medical professionals.

We will continue to gain insight from the wonderful and dedicated health officials that we are so fortunate to have nearby. If anything changes, we will let you know. Let's have a great 4-day week!

Mike Lucas

Westside Community Schools

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