OPS returns to in-person learning

October 15, 2020

OPS has begun in-person learning for the second quarter. On Sept. 23, in-person lessons five days a week began for students in the K-12 Alternate Curriculum Program, Transition, Elementary Behavioral Skills Program, Early Childhood Special Education and Hearing-Impaired classrooms.

Elementary and middle schools returned to school under the family 3/2 model on Oct. 5, which separates students into two groups for in-person school days.

On the days students are not in school, they will sign onto their live classes at home. High school students, as well as Career Center students, will return to school Oct. 19. Those who do not feel safe returning to school in any capacity have the option to continue remote learning. Remote learning may be developed more as interest grows.

With the district returning to in-person learning, OPS will proceed with winter sports and activities that begin in November. The letter said students will be able to attend practices on days they are not doing in-person learning, but students participating in remote learning will not be eligible to participate in on-site extracurricular activities. However, if there is a large spike in number of COVID-19 cases, sports will be suspended and students will go back to learning at home.

According to an email from the school district, OPS will conduct regular COVID-19 testing of all staff. The email was sent by Charles Wakefield, OPS’s chief human resources officer.

Wakefield said the test results would be seen only by the person who took the test and select staff in OPS human resources. He said the results will be treated as confidential medical records and will be kept in a secure file with the department.

This testing is more than what some of the other school districts in the Omaha area are doing. Spokespeople for several school districts in the metro area said their districts are not mandating periodic COVID-19 testing for teachers or student-teachers to remain in schools.

Those districts include Bellevue, Bennington, Gretna, Millard, Papillion La Vista, Springfield, Platteview, Ralston, Westside, Douglas County West and Elkhorn public schools, as well as Grand Island.

Several people have brought up concerns at school board meetings about the long lines for staff to get tested. They also had concerns about teachers not having to quarantine after getting tested.

Dr. Logan addressed these concerns and explained that the testing is necessary to get a big picture of what is happening within the schools. If there are clusters of positive cases within schools, the district will make adjustments for remote learning.

Parents and teachers also said they feel like the decision to return to school was made too soon.

“You made these decisions without talking to us. And what hurts me the most is that teachers are going to make it work,” a teacher said to the School Board.

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