The following is a letter from Omaha Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan to the OPS staff. Near the bottom of the letter is a link to live stream a presentation to the Board of Education tonight at 6:30 p.m.
To Our Omaha Public Schools Staff:
When early August arrives, more than five months will have passed since we last learned with students in-person. We have actively planned for a responsible reopening of our schools throughout the spring and summer. Your safety and care will continue to be at the forefront. You bring education to life for our young people.
Our work is guided by three key principles for the community we serve:
- Prioritizing the health and safety of our students, staff and families
- Providing support to our students, staff and families - including their social and emotional needs in this pandemic
- Maximizing learning time for students and enhancing distance engagement through our 1 to 1 technology initiative
Our planning process engaged staff, families, students and partners in several ways, including:
- Reviewing national, state and local guidance
- Collaboration with health experts, state and local leaders
- Conversations with neighboring school districts and similar large, urban school districts across the country
- Student, staff and family surveys and focus groups
- A workshop with our Board of Education
Through our planning, we are confident that several layers of health and safety efforts will be part of the new school year. First and most importantly, if staff or students feel ill or anyone in their home feels ill, they need to stay home. Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing measures, frequent hand washing or sanitizing and adjusted meal procedures will all be incorporated into daily routines. Health experts highlight the importance of face coverings to limit the spread of COVID-19. Our District has ordered five reusable cloth face coverings for each student and staff member.
We care deeply about our staff and students. With that in mind, we plan to begin the year using what we call a Family 3/2 model for all grades. Students with the last names A-K will attend school in-person each Monday and Tuesday. Students with the last name L-Z will attend school in-person each Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays will alternate between student groups. Our 1 to 1 technology initiative will allow students to continue learning from home. We understand that no solution is ideal during this time and we hope that conditions allow us to return at 100% in the future. The Family 3/2 model provides for social distancing, consistency to monitor health and well-being and greater predictability week to week. With our staff and students in mind, after a very thoughtful review of data and feedback, this is our best path forward right now.
On Monday, June 29 at 6:30 p.m., we will present additional information to our Board of Education about our plan for a responsible return to school. You will be able to watch the livestream on Monday evening, here. We have relaunched our health and safety website. We will also update you through an optional, virtual staff presentation in July. Please look for an invitation in the coming weeks. We know there will be many questions and are committed to regular communication with staff and families.
We know routines will look different this fall. We know conditions and guidance will evolve. We know we cannot achieve this alone. Accomplishing a responsible return to school requires all our participation. It is impossible to have an answer for every possibility and our plans will have to adjust, but the work accomplished thus far positions us well for the challenges and opportunities ahead.
In early 2020, Omaha Public Schools launched its new Strategic Plan of Action, outlining our core, collective priorities and values. Our focus on equity, leadership and the ethic of care for those we serve are more important than ever. We will cross this new territory, together.
Cheryl J. Logan, Ed.D.