Students at Scottsbluff Public Schools will return to the classroom for the next school year, according to a recent announcement released by the district.
In a video featuring Superintendent Rick Myles, the current plan for returning to onsite education was outlined.The video was released to parents via email and social media.
“We know now that school will begin as planned with students reporting to their buildings on Monday, Aug. 17,” Myles said. “That’s certainly barring any emergencies — barring any totally unexpected events.”
He pointed to the updated directed health measure issued by Gov. Pete Ricketts that went into effect June 22. Most directed health measures affecting schools have been lifted.
“Now there are really two entities that are overseeing decisions that are made in school districts in Nebraska,” Myles said. “That’s the Department of Education and the local Panhandle Public Health District.”
Guidance is regularly being posted on launchne.com, which was developed to put the tools and resources available to educators in one place.
“It’s a website that anybody can go to and you’ll see it continually evolve,” he said.
Summer school students will return to onsite learning this month, after participating remotely thus far. Groups of 10 children in will exist in each grade from kindergarten-third for specialized reading support.
Staff members will begin to reoccupy offices in phases, Myles said, so operations will begin to look familiar again.
The Panhandle Public Health District is working to create a common dial graphic, which will be use color zones determined by local conditions that can be used to make a decision.
“Then there will be backup tables that say when you’re in a yellow zone, these are things to think about,” he said. “When you’re in an orange zone ... and so on.”
Federal funding received through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund is being used to ensure everything possible is being done to set kids up for a safe return, and to ensure that the resources are there should classrooms need to return to the virtual environment.
Additionally, Myles acknowledged that some parents may not feel comfortable sending their children back into the building and a system will be in place for those situations. There will be an elementary and middle school teacher at each level who can deliver remote instruction from a classroom with a live teacher in each subject.
“The high school things will have to be more individualized,” Myles said.
Water fountains will now have water bottle stations, and sneeze guards in place.
“We will have electrostatic commercial sprayers in place so that every night we will be able to sanitize every single classroom,” Myles said. “And even more quickly than that if there’s a specific issue that arises.”
There will be isolation rooms for students who show symptoms to wait in while staff wait for medical support or the student’s parents. There will be additional health staff with more thermometers and PPE.
A para will be assigned to worked with students who are returning to school.
“Those positions will be absorbed through attrition as this event ends,” Myles said. “However, there will be somebody to just specifically help out in the school with problems and needs related to the coronavirus.”
The district is reevaluating current meal procedures and buffets are likely out of the question, and there has been discussion about bus service. Currently, socially distancing isn’t a problem because only a few students go to a couple of events.
“Summer is providing us ... opportunities to see how things will work,” he said.
The district has also been working with Western Nebraska Community College and local employers to figure out the next steps of internships and dual credit courses. He said the hope is to maximize opportunities for students, but doing so in a safe manner.
“As you can see, we are conducting a safe, prudent reopening and it’s already well underway,” he said.
Students will have more and more opportunities to take advantage of in the school district, but in order to keep everyone safe he encouraged the community to maintain “common sense approaches to safety and health.”
This includes social distancing, wearing masks when you’re near others at events, and frequent hand washing. He doesn’t want students to miss class or staff members to miss work, because it can have such an impact on their lives. The more they can minimize the risk of spread, he said, the more school — and life in general — will be able to return to normal.
Myles announced that district families will receive surveys around July 2 and will be accessible for 10-12 days after that. Staff members will also be expected to complete the survey, so the district can get a feel of “where our staff, our teachers especially, are in terms of return to school.”
The video announcement, a list of frequently asked questions and additional information is available on the district’s website sbps.net.
Myles said that whatever the 2020-21 school year brings, the district will continue to focus on doing everything it can to make students successful.
“Our vision remains to prepare our students for a challenging future,” Myles said. “In some ways, absolutely, what’s happening now is giving them a taste of the unexpected, how to be flexible, how to deal with ambiguity — how to work together.”