Donations from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska (BCBSNE) are helping students return to the classroom safely during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lourdes Central Catholic Schools

In Nebraska City, students at Lourdes Central Catholic Schools recently started the new school year in-person, heading back to the classroom for the first time since March.

“We’re all really happy to be in person and have the activities that make the school day complete,” Brooke Chaney, Lourdes Central Catholic advancement director, said.

Having students, faculty and staff wear facemasks throughout the day is a key component to Lourdes Central Catholic’s safety plan. When the school needed child-sized facemasks for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, Chaney reached out to BCBSNE for assistance after hearing about the support BCBSNE provided to Metro Omaha Medical Society’s (MOMS) and Heartland United Way’s mask distribution efforts.

BCBSNE donated 1,000 masks from Oriental Trading Company, five for each student, so students could take their masks home and wash them between uses.

“Our school, like most Catholic schools, really relies on the generosity and the investment of our parishes, community members and businesses to support our students,” Chaney said. “Any time someone is generous to us in that way, we’re always just really grateful to have that support.”

Kathy Nellor, BCBSNE health transformation leader, said the company is glad to help protect students’ health.

“We’re proud to be able to offer this support to Lourdes,” Nellor said. “By providing facemasks to the school, that’s just one less thing for parents to have to worry about on their supply lists and another way we can keep our community safe.”

Omaha Public Schools

In Omaha, MOMS made and distributed more than 40,000 facemasks over the summer with financial support provided in part by BCBSNE.

Carol Wang, MOMS executive director, explained that as mask-making efforts wound down, the nonprofit looked for ways to maximize its remaining grant funding and supplies. That’s when an opportunity to further help Omaha Public Schools (OPS) presented itself.

In assisting with OPS’ back-to-school planning alongside other experts, Wang said it became clear medically at-risk students, faculty and staff would need personal protective equipment (PPE) to safely return to the classroom.

“It’s not something OPS would normally buy, and they asked MOMS for assistance,” Wang said.

Using leftover funds from BCBSNE’s donation, MOMS purchased 9,000 pairs of gloves, 200 adult-sized face shields and 500 child-sized face shields in preparation for the new year.

Though OPS later made the decision to start the school year virtually, the PPE will be used as soon as in-person classes resume.

“We are all staying very optimistic that at some point, something will happen that will allow in-person schooling,” Wang said. “At that point, we believe they’re still going to need the PPE.”

In the meantime, MOMS continues to maximize its remaining supplies and has donated leftover bedsheets used to make the facemasks to local nonprofits, including Micah House and Ronald McDonald House.

“The giving has continued, and we continue to be really grateful” Wang said. “I like to think that we did not waste a single thing.”

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