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OPS scales back summer school plans for elementary students

OPS scales back summer school plans for elementary students

The Omaha Public Schools have scaled back summer school plans for elementary students.

The district announced this week that Next Level Learning, the district’s name for summer school, will conclude on June 30 for about 6,440 elementary school students. Because of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the district had opened up summer school to all students for June and July.

The district cited “staffing challenges” as the reason for the change of plans.

For elementary students, Next Level Learning in July will consolidate to 12 sites and serve approximately 2,160 students. The students will be selected based on need as determined by academic data, according to OPS.

Approximately 8,600 elementary students had signed up to attend summer school in June and July. All of the elementary students will be allowed to attend in June.

“Our district aspired to offer — and worked diligently to deliver — in-person learning opportunities for any student who wished to participate this summer,” the district said in a statement. “As we all work to move forward through challenging times, we were heartened to see the interest from families.”

The district will serve approximately 17,656 students in Next Level Learning this summer, which the district said is a 36% increase over a traditional year.

Next Level Learning for middle and high school students will continue as planned in June and July.

The district announced plans for Next Level Learning in February as the district’s first step in a multipart plan to help students catch up on learning lost to COVID-19.

OPS officials said they’ve developed a districtwide academic acceleration and recovery plan. The plan has short-, medium- and long-term goals and will run through the summer of 2023.

When the plans for this summer were first released, school board members questioned if teachers would want to sign up to teach this summer after teaching through two school years interrupted by the pandemic.

At a school board meeting in February, school board President Shavonna Holman and Vice President Jane Erdenberger asked whether pay for teachers could be increased for working summer school. Teachers are paid $28.50 an hour to teach summer school.

Charles Wakefield, the district’s chief human resources officer, said at the time that pay for summer school is a negotiated item in teachers’ contracts and that the district would have to negotiate with the Omaha Education Association, which represents teachers, to increase the pay.

OPS spokeswoman Bridget Blevins said there was no change in pay for Next Level Learning this summer.

She said the district did provide additional planning time for teachers this summer “to account for the work that goes into implementing an updated summer curriculum that covers seven weeks instead of the traditional three to four weeks.”

A message left for the president of OEA was not immediately returned.

The Next Level Learning sessions are from June 2 to 30 and July 6 to 23.

Wednesday was the last day of the 2020-2021 school year for OPS students.

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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.

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