This evening, the local COVID-19 Unified Command, including ESU #13 and Panhandle Public Health District, released more information regarding COVID-19 and their actions to prevent the spread here in Western Nebraska:
After consultation with COVID-19 Unified Command, it has been determined that all schools in the Nebraska Panhandle will be closed through May 1st, with the possibility of schools being closed for the remainder of the 2019/2020 school year.
This decision will be re-evaluated as circumstances change, with parents and families updated accordingly and extended as needed.
This is a precautionary measure; there are currently no confirmed cases in the Panhandle; however, local health and school officials are watching the COVID-19 situation in Colorado, Wyoming, and South Dakota closely.
School Superintendents met with Unified Command today and agreed this action would help prevent exposure to our area to flatten the curve and decrease the spread of disease.
Following this evening’s announcement, Scottsbluff Superintendent Rick Myles issued this letter to the community:
- All school buildings will remain secured and closed. No adult or student admission.
- Food distribution will continue as a priority with locations and times continually assessed.
- Further Chromebook distribution and repairs are suspended immediately.
Earlier this afternoon, the Nebraska Department of Education had a meeting to provide an overview on recommendations on school operations for the remainder of the school year.
Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt said that all schools across Nebraska must be prepared to operate in alternate learning environments while providing continuity of learning opportunities through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
“Everyone wants to be able to return to normal,” said Blomstedt in the release. “Projections and recommendations public health officials suggest that returning to school is unlikely at best.”
He continues that it is likely that social distancing and restrictions are likely to persist for several weeks or months ahead.
As far as continuing the school year, efforts are continuing to be made to provide learning opportunities for all students, ensure food security through school meals, provide accountability and assessment, and keeping workplace considerations in mind.
The Nebraska Department of Education is requiring a brief continuity of learning plan based on the following outlines:
Planning Phase (Next Two Weeks)
- How ESU’s will serve the educational needs of students
- How ESU’s will address the equity challenges for students based on specific needs
- Address special education, ESL students, poverty and other challenges
Implementation Phase (Remainder of the year in continuity plan for the next 4 to 8 weeks)
Return to normal Operation- In the unlikely event that the school year can be completed under normal operations
Final Phase- End of School Year Report
- How did ESU’s serve students and address equity needs
- Affidavit and modified assurance statement that identifies areas that were not met (i.e. hours and other provisions of rule in the final weeks/ months of the year)
2020-2021 School Year Planning
- Not too early to think of possible disruptions through summer and into the fall that may impact on how ESU’s and schools prepare