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OPS cancels school next week, other districts cancel Friday classes because of coronavirus
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OPS cancels school next week, other districts cancel Friday classes because of coronavirus

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Friday update, 9:30 a.m.: Ralston Public Schools announced Friday morning that district buildings will be closed from Saturday until March 21. 

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The coronavirus has triggered the first school closings in the Omaha metro area.

The Omaha Public Schools announced Thursday that it will close schools next week because of coronavirus concerns.

The district, Nebraska’s largest with just over 53,000 students, has been on spring break this week.

Other local districts announced they would close on Friday or extend planned spring breaks. Several districts are on spring break next week.

OPS Superintendent Cheryl Logan said in a letter that the decision was made after “careful consultation with state and local officials.”

The district said it will work with state and local officials to determine what to do after next week.

OPS Foundation Kids Club also will be closed.

The district has made plans for students to keep learning through the closure.

Elementary schools have printed packets to provide home learning. On Monday, the packets will be available for pickup between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the elementary schools. They also will be available on the district’s website.

Middle and high school students will be provided one activity a week per class through email or another digital platform. Students will be expected to complete the lessons, but they will not be graded.

If students have Internet access but no household computer or device, OPS has told families to contact their school principal before Sunday.

The district will not provide meals during the closure because of a recommendation to limit large gatherings of people. The letter said the Food Bank of the Heartland will assist families who need it.

“It is times like these that our community values are visible,” Logan wrote. “Please take care of each other. Reach out to neighbors and friends and lend a hand to those in need. We will get through this, but it will take all of us thinking creatively and continuing to support our community’s children.”

With OPS canceling school, along with several other districts on spring break next week, more than than 100,000 kids will be off school in the Omaha area.

Gov. Pete Ricketts will hold a press conference Friday morning to talk about guidance for school closures. Officials from Omaha and Lincoln school districts are expected to attend.

Here’s how other school districts adjusted their schedules because of coronavirus concerns:

Millard Public Schools

The Millard Public Schools notified staff Thursday that schools would close Friday for students, but staff would report to work.

The district was scheduled to be in session all this week, with spring break next week.

Over break, all student activities will be canceled. That will include practices, travel and performances, said Superintendent Jim Sutfin.

The district will close its buildings to community use beginning Monday morning to give time for deep-cleaning community-use areas.

“At this moment, I do not know if we will be closed after spring break,” he said. “It depends on many factors that we will be looking at over the next week.”

Elkhorn Public Schools

Elkhorn will be closed through March 23. The district had scheduled spring break for March 19-23.

The closure includes all athletic and extracurricular practices, competitions, weekend events and before and after school programs.

The district said that if the closure is extended, remote learning plans will be communicated to families by March 23.

Papillion-La Vista Community Schools

Papillion-La Vista will close schools Friday for students, though staff will report to work.

The district already is scheduled to have spring break next week.

Over break, the district will do extra cleaning. The plan, for now, would be for students to return to school after break, spokeswoman Annette Eyman said.

No school-related activities or practices will be held March 13-22.

To limit the number of students in the school, Kids Club sites will be closed from March 13-22.

Westside Community Schools

Westside already was scheduled to have Friday off.

Thursday afternoon, the district said iPads were being sent home with all elementary students so they could continue with their academic programs if school were to close.

Middle and high school parents were being advised to make sure their students had their laptops and any personal items they might need when they left school Thursday.

Textbooks and other materials also were being sent home with Westside students.

Bellevue Public Schools

Students in Bellevue already were scheduled to be off school Friday and next week for spring break. Teachers were supposed to come in Friday, but the district canceled that.

For spring break, all the Bellevue buildings will be closed, including the Welcome Center, Lied Activity Center, all activities and the Kids’ Time program.

During break, the buildings will get a deep-cleaning, officials said.

Bennington Public Schools

Bennington will close Friday for all staff and students. District officials say they will announce Friday whether additional changes will be made to the school calendar.

Springfield Platteview Community Schools

Open Friday. The district has spring break next week.

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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

Joe covers education for The World-Herald, focusing on pre-kindergarten through high school. Phone: 402-444-1077.

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