— August 16 , 2021
A letter from Dr. Hecker and the Diocesan Education Office regarding the most recent revised masking policy.
August 14, 2021
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I address you today in humility and concern. As the Chief Administrative Officer of Catholic Schools, my role is help our schools be and do their very best. It is not a dictatorial role. It is a service role. I do not profess to have all the answers or believe that I’m so much smarter than others. Rather, it is on my knees in prayer that I seek guidance and wisdom to lead our schools.
Sadly, as we begin another school year, the COVID-19 pandemic remains with us. None of us want this. We deeply yearn to return to what we knew as “normal” both in family life and in public life. However, the reality is, none of us are in control this pandemic and we are not in normal times.
Tragically, the pandemic has had a profoundly divisive and corrosive effect on our culture. We are scared, angry and resolved on our opinions. We can’t agree on “facts.” For every research study or data set or story that supports one position or the other, someone produces a study or data set or story in opposition. Driving home that point, recently a physician friend of mine asked, ”When did doctors become the enemy?” It happened, I’m guessing, because of the conflicting information within the medical community. As a result, the public has grown distrustful and can’t agree on who or what medical or public health advice to believe.
Schools are caught in the middle. We are educators. We are not medical or public health experts. We simply want to educate students and maintain a healthy and safe environment in which to do it. We accept our serious responsibility for the safety and well-being of our faculty/staff/students.
Well-meaning and well intentioned people believe that in order to maintain the most safe and healthy environment possible, students should be wearing face masks. Equally well-meaning and intentioned people believe face masks are dangerous to children and a serious impediment to the learning environment. Schools are caught in the middle.
Having made the decision for our Catholic schools to follow the recent directive letter issued by Patricia Lopez from the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department, painful disagreement was unleashed on me and on our schools. Many have threatened to leave our schools and either homeschool or transfer to other local private schools. Simply put, we can’t ignore these concerns.
Neither can we simply ignore the advice of (and directives of) the LLCHD, UNMC, and the CDC. No matter your opinion of them, they are the recognized public health experts. Similarly, our hospitals and local health care providers are literally begging the public to take precautions and not ignore the danger posed by the most recent wave of COVID.
The best resolution we can identify is threefold:
- The Catholic schools in Lincoln will maintain compliance with the August 5 LLCHD directives, until at least Sept. 5, at which time we will reassess.
- The Catholic schools in Lincoln will accept medical exemptions to the masking requirements, upon receipt of a note signed by a physician or other licensed primary care provider.
- In recognition of parental rights, the Catholic schools in Lincoln will accept a “personal and sincerely held beliefs” waiver of the masking requirements. (See attached.)
This is not without precedent. As many have pointed out, we already recognize medical exemptions to a wide variety of things. And our faith teaches that behind God, parents are the first and most important authority in the lives of their children.
I ask each parent who chooses to seek a waiver to prayerfully consider the potential impact to not only your child but to others who could be impacted by your decision. Our faith places you in authority over your child, but it also demands we “love our neighbor as our self.”
Let us please now focus on finding peace and a unified spirit of community as is expected of the body of Christ. May God bless us and providentially guide us as we launch the new school year.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
(Deacon) Dr. Matt Hecker
The Assumption of Risk & Waiver Form can be found HERE.
The form for Parents claiming exemption can be found HERE.