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Sparks fly over school reopening plan at first in-person OPS board meeting in months

Sparks fly over school reopening plan at first in-person OPS board meeting in months


After months of virtual meetings, the Omaha Public Schools board met in person Monday night.

Two dozen members of the public showed up to speak to the board about reopening schools in August, the role of school resource officers in schools and against the district’s mask requirement.

Parents had plenty of questions and concerns about the district’s back-to-school plans, and the mood was often tense. Two people were asked to leave the meeting by OPS security.

Unlike their peers in surrounding districts, OPS students will attend school for only part of the week and learn at home the rest of the week. District officials have said the plan will allow for recommended social distancing and limited groups. Students and staff also will be required to wear masks at school.

Jennifer Dartman, a mother to two OPS children, said her child is scared of going back to school, getting COVID-19 and bringing it home to her family. Dartman said working parents also have to make some tough decisions about missing work to care for children attending school part time.

Dartman told the board she thought OPS should stick with remote learning.

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Other parents told the school board that it would be hard for youths to learn while they were at home half the week.

Nikki Ghahramani said she’s a single parent to a 6-year-old. She asked how single parents are expected to provide for their kids and be a home-school teacher at the same time. She also questioned the district’s mask requirement.

“If I choose that wearing a mask is not healthy for my son and he comes to school without a mask on, what does that mean for him? Will he get in trouble? Will he be the outcast?”

Ghahramani said it feels like she’s wearing a scarlet letter when she walks around without a mask.

People attending the meeting at the Teacher Administrative Center were required to wear masks. Chairs in the board room were spread out and every one was filled. More people stood along the back wall.

Marque Snow, president of the OPS board, said one woman was required to leave after she did a Nazi salute when students raised their fists to support Black Lives Matter. He said the second woman refused to wear a mask.

Meanwhile, some OPS students and recent graduates, many from Central High School, spoke as representatives of a group called What YOUth Can Do. They asked the district to cancel its contact with Omaha police, invest in mental health resources for students, emphasize black history in the curriculum and diversify honors and Advanced Placement courses.

Lauren Anderson, a recent Central graduate, also asked the district for transparency.

This article was updated to correct the reason one speaker was asked to leave the meeting.

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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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