Responding to concerned parents, the Papillion-La Vista school district announced Monday that it will join other area districts in offering an all-remote learning option this fall.
District officials still aim to start school with the majority of students learning in person in the classroom. But now there’s an option for Papillion-La Vista parents who are uncomfortable with sending their children back because of COVID-19.
The change wasn’t enough to quell concerns of teachers. Monday night, the professional group representing Papillion-La Vista teachers said the district does not have the resources to safely reopen classes.
“We, too, are teachers. We want to return to school. We know that in-person instruction is in our students’ best interest, but it is not safe under the plan proposed by the district,” the Papillion La Vista Education Association said in a statement. The association said schools should be limited to 50% of capacity to allow for proper social distancing.
Students choosing the in-person plan will return to class Aug. 11. Remote classes start Aug. 18. Officials said they need the extra time to hire additional staff and train teachers to teach remotely.
The school board approved the district’s back-to-school plan at its Monday night meeting.
Board members said the district and community should remain flexible in order to adapt to changing conditions.
“I’m going to venture a guess that we’re going to find some constant revisions and changes to these plans, depending on what happens,” school board member Valerie Fisher said. “We ask for patience as we do that.”
Board member SuAnn Witt said the remote and in-person plans give people options.
“I think it’s very considerate of trying to get kids back into the classroom as much as possible, and offering an opportunity for people who don’t feel comfortable to be able to do that,” Witt said.
While the remote option was welcomed by parents who pushed for it, the in-person portion of the plan drew criticism from several speakers Monday night. They said that it was not safe enough in light of the current disease spread and that a better option would be having half the kids in school at a time to provide better social distancing.
Under Papillion-La Vista’s plan, students will not need a medical reason to enroll in remote learning. Any student can enroll.
Students who take classes remotely will not be allowed to participate in athletics or activities at the school. They must enroll for a semester. At the end of the semester, students may choose to return to on-campus learning or continue remotely.
In a letter to parents Monday, Superintendent Andy Rikli said the program was developed from feedback from parents and the school board.
“We know the best learning happens in the classroom with the classroom teacher teaching students,” Rikli wrote. “However, if parents are genuinely concerned about the well-being of their children or have a medical condition that causes them concern, we want families to have a choice.”
Officials said students who choose the remote option will get a general education focusing on core subjects of math, reading, writing, science and social studies. For instance, the middle school program will offer fewer electives and no band or chorus. The high school program will not offer Advanced Placement or honors-level courses.
A week ago, the Millard Public Schools announced that it would give anxious parents the choice of fully remote learning when school starts.
The Bellevue, Westside and Omaha districts also are offering all-remote options, as are Lincoln, Grand Island and others.
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