AN IMPORTANT LETTER FROM RICK MYLES, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS
Dear Scottsbluff Families,
As we navigate the increase in COVID-19 cases in our area, Scottsbluff Public Schools continues to prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff. National data released this week show Scotts Bluff County is #11 in the Nation in highest incidence of Covid and Scotts Bluff County is #1 in the State with an incidence rate of nearly twice that of any other Nebraska county. These numbers certainly seem to indicate that this is a very real problem for us that we need to stand up and face together as a community.
Scotts Bluff County listed #11 on a national list of hot spots. Source: New York Times
As with so many regional initiatives, this community has been at the forefront of response and innovation. This crisis has been no exception. Our students, teachers, support staff and parents have done a tremendous job in adapting to the health and safety measures implemented in our schools since the start of the school year. But even with these additional precautions, the number of quarantines and positive cases are steadily rising. Data from PPHD shows that infections are much more frequent and serious illness and hospitalizations are rising.
As we have shared, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to staff our schools. The number of quarantines and positive tests that our employees are undergoing far exceeds our capacity to staff and support all classrooms as we should be. For example, as I write this, we have 43 staff members and 333 students who are either in quarantine or who have tested positive. We are short substitute teachers and our ranks of counselors, school administrators, paraprofessionals, and maintenance staff are all significantly compromised.
More and more students are out…and in…and back out again as health directives and infection rates drive quarantines and illness. It is harder and harder for remaining teachers to deliver instruction to face-to-face students and remote learners with the quality they would like.
Therefore, Scottsbluff Public Schools will be extending Thanksgiving Break. There will be no school Monday, November 23rd through Friday, November 27th. This two-day extension will provide all staff the opportunity to meet together on Monday the 23rd (safely in-person or via Zoom) to have deep and focused dialog about how we progress from here. They will consider their own survey data, parents’ survey data and unique challenges and opportunities they see from their unique experiences that will help us be more effective as we progress through this pandemic. And, yes, that “p-word” that word so many of us have avoided using, is certainly one we must now more fully acknowledge. That afternoon and Tuesday will be provided to give them additional time to catch up on their work and on their lives after overwhelmingly demanding opening months of school. It will also provide some time to get impacted students and staff members time to complete their quarantines or isolations and get healthy. Time to hopefully allow us to retool and have a better shot at staffing our schools adequately.
The District, through all phases of the COVID-19 response, continues to adhere to the Guiding Principles of our Return-to-School Plan which are:
1. Everyone, as well as everyone’s needs, ideas and perspectives, must be respected
2. The health and safety of our students and of our staff are our most important priorities.
These need to be more than words and must drive our actions. To help us with this, we would like to ask all SBPS parents to complete a short 6 question survey to provide your input on the District’s pandemic response based on current conditions. We ask that you complete a survey for each child you have in school by Wednesday, November 18th.
Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement. We really are all in this together.
Superintendent, Scottsbluff Public Schools