Earlier this month, the OPS school board and superintendent made a public decision regarding the reopening of schools amidst the COVID19 pandemic. It was decided that all schools would follow a 3/2 plan, where half of the student population will attend in-person schooling Monday and Tuesday, while the other half will attend Thursday and Friday. Each group will switch off going to school every other Wednesday. On the days where students aren’t in scshool, independent study will be conducted as it was in the spring. This decision was made by Cheryl Logan after much consultation and research on behalf of the students.
“I looked at school reopening plans and looked at the launch reopening site,” Logan said. “I consulted with the Douglas County health director and Dr. Kerry Simonson at UNMC. We sent out surveys to students and staff and [conducted] focus groups to measure the major impact it would have on families.”
Many OPS students and parents were curious about why the school board did not vote on the scheduling decision.
“Administration makes the call about school scheduling,” Logan said. “There was no intentionality around that. The roles of the superintendent and school board are different.
School board member and former Central parent, Lou Anne Goding, was not informed about the decision before it was made.
[The schedule] was introduced to [the board] two hours before parents and teachers were made aware, Goding said. “I would have preferred to have a vote, because I have a child who just graduated from Central, and I feel pretty connected to the high school community.”
The main goal of the 3/2 scheduling plan is to reduce the number of students in the classroom at a given time. Some students were upset by the fact that the district decided not to put grade levels together. According to Logan, that possibility was ruled out because it would reduce the number of students in the building rather than class size.
“We worked to make a schedule where we can have as much in-person time as possible,” Logan said. “We started working towards a 100 percent return, then we eliminated that possibility based on the health and safety considerations we were supposed to be. We know we constantly have to re-evaluate and we have to keep moving forward.”
Additionally, Goding said she is concerned about students’ quality of education if they are not in the classroom.
”I would like to see the option of having distance learning on students’ days off, specifically on the secondary level,” Goding said. “I’ve had North and Central students who have said they need to see our teachers and know what we’re doing. They want to make sure they’re going into it strong so they can achieve the goals they set for themselves.”
As of now, the number of spots for strictly online learning is limited. Once they get enough teachers to teach, then they’ll decide what classes to offer. Students won’t know what classes they will get until they have enough teachers.
Students have begun corresponding with Logan and members of the school board about what school dances and sporting events will look like in the fall. Both Goding and Logan emphasized the importance of student safety in decision making.
“I don’t know yet. We’re all reasonable people and social distanced dancing sounds terrible,” Logan said. “We’ll work through those as they come closer. The goal is to keep moving. Life keeps moving forwards, and the only thing that doesn’t stop is time. People will get on and off the life train, but we want to live and enjoy life even in the context of a pandemic.”
The hope is to return to complete in-person learning for the second semester. Until then, the school board and Logan will continue to meet once a week to track the state and national Coronavirus status. There will be another school board meeting Aug. 3 to discuss what extracurriculars will look like next year.