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OPS teachers express discomfort with district's back-to-classroom plan

OPS teachers express discomfort with district's back-to-classroom plan

The OPS school board held a special meeting on Tuesday to get an update on remote learning and hear a plan to play fall sports in the spring.

Several Omaha Public Schools teachers told the school board Monday that they do not feel comfortable with the district’s plan to return students to the classroom.

At Monday evening’s board meeting, the teachers questioned why the district is making the switch to in-person learning early for elementary and middle school students after planning to do remote learning for the entire first quarter of the school year.

Last week, OPS announced its dates for getting students back inside classrooms for the first time since March. The first quarter ends Oct. 16. Plans call for elementary and middle school students to return Oct. 5 and high school students to return Oct. 19.

 Now, teachers will be asked to teach remotely and in person at the same time.

Teacher Molly Davies told the school board that the return to in-person learning is not a data-driven decision.

“If we choose to do this knowing that our positive transmission rates are high, knowing we have not met the metrics that we believe in, can we stop saying that it’s safe?” Davies said. “Because teachers are largely overeducated nerds. And we read too much. And when we’re told things that we can plainly see are not the case, it insults all of us.”

Teacher Kate Wiig told the school board that teachers feel blindsided and overwhelmed by the district’s decisions.

“And what bothers me the most is that teachers are going to end up making all of this work,” Wiig said. “We’re going to sacrifice our health and we’re going to exhaust ourselves to the point that we are more susceptible to illness because we can’t bear the idea of not being enough for kids.”

Superintendent Cheryl Logan said families have overwhelmingly said they want to be back in school. Logan said remote learning will continue to be an option for families who prefer it.

The superintendent took a point of personal privilege to respond to comments that she said were offensive.

“No one, and I mean no one, in the State of Nebraska has put themselves on the line more than I, and this board, and this school administration, to protect the young people and the community of Omaha,” Logan said. “We have taken a very strong stance in things that matter and things that were difficult.”

Next month, many OPS schools will be opening under the district’s Family 3/2 Model, which calls for students to be divided into two groups, each of which would attend school in person part of the week.

On Monday, OPS officials gave more details about what daily life will look like for students who opt to return to school in the Family 3/2 Model and those who opt to continue with remote learning.

Elementary students in the Family 3/2 Model will receive five days of instruction in English language arts and math. On the days they are at school they will also receive lessons in science, social studies and special classes like art and music.

On the days elementary students are at home they will log onto virtual daily morning meetings for attendance. Lessons in English and math will be delivered in prerecorded videos.

Secondary students in the Family 3/2 Model will attend their regular classes virtually on the days they are at home. Students will remain in their currently scheduled courses, district officials said.

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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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