“This is a surreal environment.  I keep hoping that I will wake up from this bad dream,” said Hemingford Superintendent Charles Isom.

“There are moments that define a person.  As the superintendent, my hope is that I am doing the best I can for the district.  What type of communication should I be putting out?  I am in shock that students left on March 10 and will not be in the building again this school year.”

“The seniors don't get the experience the things they should be experiencing,” said Isom. “Prom, graduation, speech meets, track meets, golf meets--those things cannot be replaced. I hope that as we develop a plan for graduation, that we can somehow help them with some of the loss.”

“When reality set in yesterday that we will not have school in a traditional way, it made me sad,” Isom added. “I did not get into this business to social distance…Talking to students in the Red Zone or students coming in for a lifesaver… that is the things I miss the most right now,” said Isom.

Emotions are running high and the uncertainty of everything is something that no one could have ever predicted.

On Tuesday, March 31 the news from the Panhandle Public Health District that after consultation with COVID-19 Unified Command, it was determined that all schools in the Nebraska Panhandle will remain closed and operate in an alternative learning environment for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.  

The press release from PPHD stated, “Traditional graduation ceremonies are not going to be possible this May.  Schools will be working to determine appropriate alternative methods to honor the Class of 2020 in each community, whether that be a ceremony at a later date or some other locally determined alternative graduation that complies with the guidance of health officials.”

“We continue to monitor the unfolding COVID-19 epidemic to anticipate its impact on the Panhandle.  We are working as a unified command with Region 21, 22, and 23 Emergency Managers, and Scotts Bluff County Health Department on this evolving situation.  We will continue to communicate important updates to the public and our partners.”

“Panhandle Public Health District is working together to improve the health, safety, and quality of life for all who live, learn, work and play in the Panhandle.  Our vision is that we are a healthier and safer Panhandle Community.  Visit our website www.pphd.org.”

Hemingford High School Principal Dan Kluver said, “High school and junior high teachers were already doing a lot online so this has not changed that much for them. What has changed is how they are delivering that content, most of them are using Zoom, Facebook live, or YouTube TV to record their instruction and then posting it on our Google classroom platform to share with kids so they are still getting some form of instruction.”

“We’re also limiting how much is expected of kids each week. We know that these kids are being mom and dad, ranch hands, and helping at home while this is all going on. At the same time we have to have some expectations for school work too.”

“Now that we know that this is how it will be for the remainder of the school year, we can move forward. The beginning of next school year will look different. Students might not be coming in at the same level as they would have had they of had those nine weeks of physical school that they are missing out on.”

“Students still have stuff at the school… how do we bring in 175 students, safely in a controlled manner to get their belongings. These are the things that are keeping me awake at night.”

“But the kids that I feel the worst for are the seniors,” Kluver said. “It’s your last year and there are so many memories that are made in the spring. Not just prom and graduation but there are a lot of things that they will be missing out on.”

“We’re going to do something for graduation but we don’t know quite yet what that will look like,” he noted. “We will still make it special for them but it won’t nearly be the same.”

“The elementary teachers are communicating through our "Remind" communication system along with other digital means like Google Classroom and Class Dojo,” said Hemingford Elementary School Principal Eric Arneson. “The teachers have been working on putting materials together for students to work on at home. Kindergarten through third-grade students will have a packet of materials every two weeks that they come and pick up at the school. Fourth through sixth-grade have made the move to eLearning. The teachers are putting materials on Google Classroom for them to work on at home. All students have been getting information for Specials either in their packet, Google Classroom or Remind. We have a resource called, "The Den" which is a website that Mr. Dean created as a one-stop-shop for links to online programs and other lessons.  Some teachers are utilizing that to add links to resources that the students can do at home. This website has been in place for a few years now, but we're making good use of it with the campus closure.” 

As for what parents can do at home.

“We want the parents to spend time with their children doing the work the teachers assign and reviewing skills,” Arneson said. “One of the best things they can do is read with their younger children.” 

“Please reach out to your teacher or me if there is something we can help with. Just because our building is closed, doesn't mean that we are not wanting to educate. If there is a way we can help, please let us know. Please sign up for Remind. This is one of the best ways we can communicate with all of our families.” 

“I miss being at school and seeing everyone. I want everyone to stay healthy and safe and I know we'll get through this,” Arneson said. 

Special Education Director Mandy Plog said, “All of our sped teachers have reached out individually to families and discussed what they need. If you are on Twitter, @drbradjohnson has some great points during this school closure time.”

“I am most worried about our families that were struggling and hanging on by a shoestring before all this started,” Plog added. “The school is a safety net, and despite our best efforts, we cannot be there for them like we could when we were open. On the positive side, I think it has allowed many families step back from the busy, go-go-go lifestyles, and enjoy being together. With structured extracurricular activities cancelled, there is more time for unstructured hobbies and fun. I hope that continues even when school returns to normal next year.”

Check with the schools website at www.hemingfordschools.org and Facebook page to stay up-to-date on the latest news.

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