Education

Educators challenge community to mask up

Quincy Notre Dame principal Mark McDowell speaks at the Adams County Together's 21-day mask challenge press conference at the Board of Education Office on Friday, July. 31, 2020. The challenge serves to help build students' habit of wearing a mask in preparation for the start of the school season. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 1, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY -- Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb and Quincy Notre Dame Principal Mark McDowell say they need the community to do one thing between now and the start of school.

Wear a mask.

"It's a challenge to the community to help us out," Webb said. "We're three weeks out from school. In order for us to start in person with children and have that opportunity to stay in person, it's really going to take a community effort."

The two educators were joined at a Friday morning news conference by Dr. Richard Schlepphorst, chief medical officer with Quincy Medical Group, Regional Superintendent Jill Reis and Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore challenged community members to mask up -- just as they did -- to help keep students and teachers healthy.

"View face coverings not as an obligation but instead as our opportunity to help one another and to be the best neighbor to one another," McDowell said.

Both QPS and QND plan to start the school year with in-person classes, but "if I get teachers that are positive, students in classrooms that are positive, we may have to adapt our plan and switch," Webb said. "The 21-day challenge is perfect to get our kids to school, but we will need to sustain that longer for my teachers so they can be there for our children."

The request followed a similar 21-day challenge talked about by Hannibal, Mo., Mayor James Hark during a meeting last week with Moore and Keokuk, Iowa, Mayor Tom Richardson to ask Tri-State residents to wear a mask when out in public and not able to maintain social distance.

"People said to me when does that start for us in Quincy and Adams County. We're here to say the 21-day challenge starts now. We're asking you every day to be mindful of wearing a mask when you're out in public," Moore said.

"It's going to take all of us changing our habits," Moore said. "But if we do this and do it together, then in 21 days our kids are going to be able to come back to school, our teachers are going to be healthy and we're going to continue to drive down the disease burden in our community."

As a way to help, Moore said the Adams County Together website, AdamsCountyTogether.com, will post daily reminders to mask up for staying open together.

Schools will work with students to wear masks, wash hands and social distance as much as possible with smaller class sizes and keeping the same groups of students together as much as possible in the pre-K-8 setting. High schools will adjust schedules, with Quincy High School and QND both planning a A day/B day schedule, to reduce the number of students in the building at one time.

"We're just trying to do everything that we can to allow that in-person instruction which will be critical for our kids and our community," Webb said. "If I have a surge of cases in teachers, I don't have an infinite number of teachers that can come into the classroom. I've got to do everything I can to keep everybody safe. The experts tell me this is one of the things that can be done."

Schlepphorst said masks work by reducing respiratory droplets that leave the mouth and carry the virus -- and it's key that everyone participate.

"Wear a mask, Watch your distance from other people. Wash your hands after you touch common surfaces shared by others," Schlepphorst said. "You need to be out living life, but along the way you can at least mitigate your risk and keep the case rates lower."