Masks Back On To Start 2nd Semester


Brendan Preisman, Jay Journal Staff

It was a tough decision, but not an entirely unexpected one.  The email went out to parents around New Year’s, and it was clear: masks would be required from at least January 4th through January 14th, or about 2 school weeks.  The administration had to make the decision: given that over 30 students tested positive for coronavirus, it would be potentially catastrophic for attendance if no protective measures were put in place.  Jay Journal sat down with Mr. Jim Bopp, the head of school for Creighton Prep, to talk about why the measures were put in place and how they’re going so far.

Mr. Bopp said that the first concern was safely staffing the school.  Given how positive cases are spiking and because of the quarantine rules-a positive test would cause the person testing positive to be out of the building for 5 days minimum-it would be best to ensure that teachers could remain in the building by masking up.  The school had more positive cases for teachers within the first three days coming back than in all of 2021, so the decision was likely coming soon anyway.

Bopp did say that there was no outbreak connected to Christmas in the Cage, especially given that it took place before Omicron became prevalent.  In fact, Prep has had no real clear cases of outbreak since the pandemic started, leading Bopp to say that “once the number becomes tenable…that’s when we’d look to make the return to normal.”  He says the goal is to ensure that there is no more concern with safely staffing the school and then look to remove the mask mandate.  However, Bopp noted that it would take a week or two before the concerns could be alleviated.  

He also noted that the student population had seen a dramatic increase in cases, one correlated with the rise in teacher positives.  Bopp said that there were over 30 student cases in just the week of the return to school, which “were numbers we’d never seen before.”  However, there are no plans for more health measures, with Bopp noting that “masking is the only planned mitigation measure at this time.”  He also said that even Prep’s basketball games would not require further restrictions, given that the Heider’s size and ventilation make it very similar to being outside.  

According to Bopp, the students are doing a very good job during the school day.  The only real problem has been “issues…in the Lannon Learning Commons after 3 o’clock,” but for the most part-especially during the school day-the students have done a very good job following the mandate.  He also said it’s been a “fairly quiet and a fairly expected response,” especially given how common mask mandates have been in schools and the fact that most parents desire in person learning to remain rather than returning to remote learning.  

He also said that “the decision, if we move away from masking, is solely based on what our school data is.”  School numbers have mirrored county numbers “pretty consistently…in terms of the highs and lows,” but most of the cases that Prep as a school community has dealt with have come from outside the school.  Bopp said that “All of our mitigation measures will be based on what we see inside the school,” especially because of the high vaccination rates at Prep.  Teachers are almost 99% percent vaccinated, and the senior class is nearing 98% vaccinated.  

While Bopp said that students are not required to disclose information, “the information that we’ve gotten would suggest that” the student body’s vaccination numbers are above 80%.  That is why, according to Bopp, “it makes sense to look at our own numbers.”  

So what’s next for health measures at Prep?  Bopp notes that most health experts have advised Prep to get as many people fully vaccinated as possible, and that does include booster shots at this point in time.  Other than that, however, no other mandates are expected to be required and Prep will likely go back to normal within a couple of weeks.