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Omaha Public Schools board of education approves changes for upcoming school year

The Omaha Public Schools Board of Education approved several changes for the upcoming school year related to the COVID-19 pandemic during a nearly four-hour meeting. The board voted unanimously to support a requirement that everyone on district property will have to wear a face covering. Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan said they’re trying to send a strong message through the requirement. “We do not plan on arresting children for not wearing a mask or suspending them,” Logan said. The board also approved changes to the district’s calendar for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, including starting a week earlier in August, and extending winter break by one week. The meeting included public comment on the district’s plan for a ‘responsible return to school’, and the board discussed those plans at length. OPS can proceed with those plans without board approval. The district outlined what it calls a Family 3-2 model. Students with last names beginning A through K will go to school on Monday and Tuesday. The rest will attend every Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will alternate between the student groups. Officials explained some students will attend school every day, including early childhood special education, those who are hearing impaired, students in Behavioral Skill Programs and more. Additionally, the district said it will work with families who want remote learning all five days of the school week. People will also have the ability to apply for the Omaha Virtual School as a separate option. When it comes to masks: the district will provide five cloth masks to each student and staff member. Officials also said they will work with students who have sensory needs, those who use lip reading or whose breathing might be impaired. Face shields would be an option. OPS will provide meals to take home on days when students are not in school buildings. As for technology, the first wave of 10,000 iPads are ready for shipment. The district said it will receive iPads for each student by September. The board did hear from both teachers and the Omaha Education Association. Robert Miller, President of the OEA, said teachers only found out about the plans a few days prior to Monday’s meeting. “When we are not part of the discussion, trust is broken,” Miller said. Teachers expressed concern about an increase in responsibility, balancing both remote and in-person lesson planning and potential duties related to sanitizing schools. “My primary concern is just about being able to plan and teach these students, our students, whether they’re at home and online,” said Christina Atkins, an OPS teacher, “and I feel like having students every single day, it will be impossible to be able to go ahead and give real quality education to the online kids, and in-school kids.” Logan said staff will receive emails in July about a return to work and options for those who feel they cannot return to buildings. Families interested in remote learning opportunities can email remotelearning@OPS.org. “It’s not where we want to be, but we are in a pandemic, and so we’re going to make the best decisions we can with the information that we have,” Logan said.

The Omaha Public Schools Board of Education approved several changes for the upcoming school year related to the COVID-19 pandemic during a nearly four-hour meeting.

The board voted unanimously to support a requirement that everyone on district property will have to wear a face covering.

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan said they’re trying to send a strong message through the requirement.

“We do not plan on arresting children for not wearing a mask or suspending them,” Logan said.

The board also approved changes to the district’s calendar for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year, including starting a week earlier in August, and extending winter break by one week.

The meeting included public comment on the district’s plan for a ‘responsible return to school’, and the board discussed those plans at length.

OPS can proceed with those plans without board approval.

The district outlined what it calls a Family 3-2 model. Students with last names beginning A through K will go to school on Monday and Tuesday. The rest will attend every Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will alternate between the student groups.

Officials explained some students will attend school every day, including early childhood special education, those who are hearing impaired, students in Behavioral Skill Programs and more.

Additionally, the district said it will work with families who want remote learning all five days of the school week. People will also have the ability to apply for the Omaha Virtual School as a separate option.

When it comes to masks: the district will provide five cloth masks to each student and staff member. Officials also said they will work with students who have sensory needs, those who use lip reading or whose breathing might be impaired. Face shields would be an option.

OPS will provide meals to take home on days when students are not in school buildings.

As for technology, the first wave of 10,000 iPads are ready for shipment. The district said it will receive iPads for each student by September.

The board did hear from both teachers and the Omaha Education Association.

Robert Miller, President of the OEA, said teachers only found out about the plans a few days prior to Monday’s meeting.

“When we are not part of the discussion, trust is broken,” Miller said.

Teachers expressed concern about an increase in responsibility, balancing both remote and in-person lesson planning and potential duties related to sanitizing schools.

“My primary concern is just about being able to plan and teach these students, our students, whether they’re at home and online,” said Christina Atkins, an OPS teacher, “and I feel like having students every single day, it will be impossible to be able to go ahead and give real quality education to the online kids, and in-school kids.”

Logan said staff will receive emails in July about a return to work and options for those who feel they cannot return to buildings. Families interested in remote learning opportunities can email remotelearning@OPS.org.

“It’s not where we want to be, but we are in a pandemic, and so we’re going to make the best decisions we can with the information that we have,” Logan said.

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