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COVID changes Thanksgiving week plans for school districts in Omaha area

COVID changes Thanksgiving week plans for school districts in Omaha area

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Papillion-La Vista South High School (copy)

Papillion-La Vista South High School, shown here in 2016, and the rest of the district’s schools will be closed to students from Nov. 23 until Nov. 30

Five more metro-area school districts have canceled in-person classes during Thanksgiving week amid increasing COVID-19 cases and quarantines.

The Papillion La Vista Community Schools, the Bellevue Public Schools, the Council Bluffs Community Schools, the Bennington Public Schools and the Springfield Platteview Community Schools joined the Millard Public Schools this week in closing their buildings for the holiday week to give more time for staff and students to finish quarantines.

It also is an opportunity to scrub buildings, they say.

The Lincoln Public Schools also announced that they would not hold classes, giving students a break and staff a chance to catch up and recoup lost planning time.

Papillion La Vista will have no students on Monday, Nov. 23, or Tuesday, Nov. 24, but staff will report, according to Superintendent Andy Rikli.

The majority of students in the district are learning in person, but some are learning remotely.

Bellevue officials changed their calendar to convert Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week to professional workdays for staff, with no school for students.

In both districts, students were already scheduled to have the rest of the week off.

Papillion La Vista students are scheduled to return Monday, Nov. 30. Bellevue students are scheduled to return Tuesday, Dec. 1, because Nov. 30 was already a professional development day for teachers with no classes.

“We know this calendar change may cause some challenges for families, however we hope by closing our buildings for the entire week we can offer a calm break for everyone and allow some time for individuals to finish their quarantine periods,” according to a memo the Bellevue district sent to families.

The majority of Bellevue students are attending school in person.

Council Bluffs students will learn remotely on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, with the rest of the week off.

Bluffs Superintendent Vickie Murillo, in a Thursday letter to parents, cited Pottawattamie County’s rising COVID-19 positive test rate and the impact of coronavirus cases and quarantines on schools as key factors in the decision.

Starting Nov. 30, Council Bluffs schools will operate in the hybrid mode, in which students alternate between in-person and remote learning throughout the week. That will continue until Dec. 21, when winter break begins.

Brett Richards, superintendent of the Springfield Platteview district, apologized in a note to families for any inconvenience the change may cause. But he said teachers are “overwhelmed and exhausted” from working longer hours and from teaching both remote students and in-person students.

Springfield Platteview students will have no school on Nov. 23 or 24, and they won’t go the half day they were supposed to attend Nov. 25. The changes give them a full week off.

The Bennington Public Schools will switch to remote learning for the two days before Thanksgiving break. Students will receive lessons for review or enrichment those days.

The extended break will allow the district to rest personnel, deep-clean facilities and be ready for the remaining three weeks of the semester, Superintendent Terry Haack said.

The district intends to return to in-person learning Nov. 30.

The Elkhorn Public Schools announced in October that students will do distance learning the week after holidays and breaks for the rest of the school year. At the time, district officials said trends have shown spikes in COVID-19 cases after holidays and times when people gather and travel.

The Westside Community Schools will shift to 50% in-person learning in all the district’s schools after Thanksgiving because of rising COVID-19 cases. The switch means that students will attend school in person for part of the week and learn remotely for the other part of the week.

District officials said they hoped that the switch will allow for more social distancing in schools and more flexibility to move staff around.

Tim Johnson of the Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs contributed to this report.

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