Version posted: 2/22/21
Why is Omaha Public Schools transitioning to learning in-person with students five days per week?
Five days of in-person academic, social and emotional instruction will best help our students move forward after a year of significant disruption. Many students throughout our metro area are attending in person each day. We have an opportunity to begin our academic acceleration work in the remaining months of this school year and we owe it to our young people.
Will the Remote Learning Program be available?
Yes, the Remote Learning Program will remain available. If you wish to change your student’s attendance plan (in-person or remote), please contact your student’s school.
How is Omaha Public Schools protecting the health and safety of students and staff?
Health and safety is our priority. Facial coverings and enhanced disinfecting measures will remain part of our protocols. We are the only area district to temporarily transition schools to remote learning and provide access to testing for all school staff when contact tracing determined it was appropriate. We were among, if not the first school district in our country to partner with an expert like UNMC for environmental testing for COVID-19 through the OPS PROTECTS pilot program, and we continue planning for expanded access to testing. We can all support a responsible transition by following health and safety protocols in and out of school.
Is there a chance Omaha Public Schools could return to the Family 3/2 or Remote Instructional Model?
If contact tracing reveals evidence of spread on-site or the number of staff on public health leave affects a school’s ability to operate, schools may temporarily transition to remote learning. Changing community conditions could require transitions in the future, but our focus is a responsible transition to serving students five days per week in-person.
Can my student transition between remote and in-person learning?
If you wish to change your student’s attendance plan, please contact your student’s school.
Will Meals2Go still be available?
Meals2Go will continue to be available. Find more information about Meals2Go here.
How will arts, athletics and activities proceed?
Arts, athletics and activities will proceed as they have been. Attendance guidelines for athletic events are set by the Metro Conference.
Will visitors be allowed in school when students attend five days per week?
No. Limiting outside visitors helps to protect students and staff as we focus on academic, social and emotional instruction.
Will external use permits be allowed in school when students attend five days per week?
No. Limiting outside use of our facilities helps to protect students and staff as we focus on academic, social and emotional instruction.
Will visitors be allowed in schools?
With very few exceptions, visitors will not be allowed in schools. Teachers are encouraged to connect with guest speakers virtually, and schools should encourage online meetings whenever practical.
Why might some school procedures look different?
The district provided overarching guidelines and expectations to all schools. Schools will make decisions related to specific procedures based on their capacity and what works best in their school setting. Families who have questions should reach out to their school principal.
Will elementary schools be allowed to have classroom parties?
We anticipate that classroom parties will be limited or adjusted to reflect health guidance as the 2020-21 school year progresses.
Will students take state tests during the school year?
A decision regarding state tests will be made by the Nebraska Department of Education.
Will Omaha Public Schools continue its Strive for 95 initiative?
While we know that attendance at school is important, our District recognizes this is an unprecedented time. If a student or staff member feels ill, or anyone in their home feels sick, they must stay home. StriveFor95 materials, banners or flyers should not be sent home or displayed.
With Omaha Public Schools’ 1 to 1 technology initiative, each student will receive an internet-connected device. Attendance and participation in remote learning will be an expectation throughout our district.
Will school partners still be allowed in our schools to provide additional services or supports for students and families?
A few, limited partners will continue to serve in the school setting by following safety guidelines. Field trips and general classroom visitors will not be permitted. Staff should pursue virtual opportunities whenever possible.
What precautions are you taking to make sure kids are healthy in school?
Health and safety are our priority. We understand the importance of caring for the social and emotional wellbeing of our staff and students. Enhanced cleaning measures, regular disinfecting of high-touch surfaces, frequent handwashing and hand sanitizer use, social distancing measures when possible, limiting transitions, adapting meal procedures and the use of district-provided face coverings will all be part of our comprehensive effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.
What health assessment questions should families review daily?
Every day before they leave home, families will complete a self-health assessment, asking themselves three vital questions:
Has your child experienced one or more of the following symptoms: a new cough, new onset of shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell OR two or more of the following symptoms: fever 100.4 or above, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue in the last 24 hours?
Is your child waiting for a Covid-19 test result?
Has anyone in your household been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the last 14 days?
If they answer "yes" to any of these questions, they will be expected to stay home.
Will the district provide face coverings for students and staff?
Yes. We have provided five cloth face coverings for each student and staff member in our district community. Our district has also purchased disposable masks for use by visitors and as needed when a cloth face covering is not available.
Will face coverings be required?
Our district understands that individuals have different levels of comfort when it comes to wearing a face covering. The CDC recommends that all individuals over the age of 2 wear a face covering to limit the spread of COVID-19. The CDC recommends that face coverings be worn anytime someone is around someone who they do not live with. This will help to limit the spread of the virus. The CDC highlights the importance of wearing a face covering in situations where social distancing may not occur.
By using face coverings, social distancing where possible, increased cleaning procedures and other measures, we can prioritize in-person learning time. Our district will provide five cloth face coverings for each student and staff member. This will allow students to wear it for one day and then take it home and wash it.
We will expect face coverings to be worn in all school buildings with limited exceptions based on medical need. Students may remove the covering when eating or drinking, during recess when physically active and social distancing is supervised and maintained. Staff will work with families who have concerns about their child wearing a face covering due to specific health concerns.
Our goal is to educate and teach students about the importance of face coverings in protecting their teachers, classmates and families. We’re confident that we’ll be able to work with everyone to get where we need to be.
What happens if my student can’t wear a face covering?
The district will provide five cloth face coverings to each staff member and student as a measure to ensure the health and safety of all. If a student comes to school without a face covering, disposable coverings will be available. Staff will work with families who have concerns about their child wearing a face covering due to specific health concerns.
What are the requirements for face coverings?
Multilayer cloth face coverings are required for all staff, students and visitors.
Families are allowed to provide their own multilayer cloth face coverings. Please note: Gaiters are single layer and can only be used if doubled up and cover both the nose and the mouth.
Plastic face shields are not a suitable replacement for multilayer cloth face coverings.
Masks with a valve (as well as mesh masks or masks with openings, holes, visible gaps in the design or material or vents) are NOT sufficient face coverings because they allow exhaled droplets to be released into the air.
How will a confirmed case of COVID-19 be handled?
If a parent/guardian reports a student has been diagnosed with Covid-19, the school will partner with district contact tracers to identify students and staff who have come in close contact with the student (defined as greater than 15 minutes of interaction less than 6 feet away) while maintaining the student’s confidentiality. Contact tracers will be in touch with next steps.
Will communication go to families regarding confirmed COVID-19 cases?
Omaha Public Schools is committed to open and transparent communication with our students, staff and families. If someone is found to be in close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, they will receive direct communication from district Human Resources or Health staff. A general advisory will be sent to the staff and families in a school to ensure they are aware.
Does the district have enough cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer?
Our district has worked throughout the spring and summer to secure necessary protective and disinfecting equipment.
Will schools be doing temperature checks?
Through a partnership with a local donor, Omaha Public Schools has provided thermometers for families to check symptoms at home. Our district will also provide families with the symptoms to regularly monitor for. If anyone in the home is ill, a student should stay home.
What will a school do if a student has signs of COVID-19 in school?
If a student is ill at school, they will move to a designated space while staff work with family members to pick up the student promptly.
At what point would you decide to change attendance plans?
If contact tracing reveals evidence of spread on site or the number of staff on public health leave affects a school’s ability to operate, schools may temporarily transition to remote learning. Changing community conditions could require transitions in the future, but our focus is a responsible transition to serving students five days per week in-person.
Which schools are a part of the program?
This program was piloted in Marrs Middle School, Norris Middle School and Bryan High School. We have expanded access in Jan. 2021 to King Science & Technology Middle School, McMillan Middle School and Northwest High School.
Why did Omaha Public Schools partner with UNMC for this proactive testing program?
Omaha Public Schools and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) have been partners in planning for a responsible return to school. By utilizing the state-of-the art tools available through our partnership with UNMC and other health care providers like OneWorld Community Health Centers and Charles Drew Health Center, we are able to add another layer to the health and safety measures already in place throughout our district which include staff testing, facial coverings, social distancing and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting. Providing access to optional student testing, and monitoring other environmental factors, helps us maximize safety and keep students learning in person. As a leader in the medical field, UNMC will use anonymous testing data to continue their research into COVID-19.
What elements are included in the program?
Omaha Public Schools is partnering with UNMC and other healthcare partners to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and the community by providing access to testing for students and utilizing environmental testing in our schools. Anonymous testing data will support UNMC’s research on COVID-19.
COVID-19 Saliva Tests: Each staff and student who opts into voluntary testing will be observed providing a weekly self-collected saliva sample. Samples will then be taken to the Nebraska Medicine laboratory for testing. Individuals with a positive test result will be notified by OneWorld Community Health Centers or Charles Drew Health Center regarding next steps and support. Positive results will be shared with Omaha Public Schools and the public health department for contact tracing purposes. Personal information will otherwise be kept strictly confidential.
Environmental Testing: In addition to testing availability for students and staff, UNMC and the University of Nebraska – Lincoln will also conduct wastewater tests and air sampling at the participating schools. This includes collecting samples from high-touch surfaces and wastewater to look for the presence of COVID-19.
Why is the access to testing so important?
Omaha Public Schools has implemented robust health and safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our schools. Giving students access to this optional testing at no cost will allow for those who receive positive test results to take action in preventing the spread of COVID-19. This program will also help our district evaluate and enhance the safety protocols we have in place in order to maintain in-person education. UNMC will use anonymous testing data to support their research into COVID-19.
Who will be collecting the samples?
Samples will be self-collected with supervision and transported to the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s laboratory for analysis.
What type of test will be used?
Students who opt in and all staff will be tested for the presence of the virus in their saliva. The saliva test is less invasive than a nasal swab, requiring individuals to spit saliva through a straw into a container. The process is quick and painless.
Is participation in the testing optional for students?
Yes. Participation is optional for students who attend school on site. Regular testing is required for Omaha Public Schools staff.
If I, or my student, test positive, how will we be notified?
Individuals with a positive test result will be notified by UNMC’s automated notification system and our clinical partners at OneWorld Community Health Centers or Charles Drew Health Center will contact those individuals to offer guidance on next steps and support.
Will my, or my student's data, be kept private?
Yes. All medical information will be kept confidential throughout this process. Test results that are generated at UNMC/Nebraska Medicine will be shared with our clinical partners at OneWorld Community Health Centers or Charles Drew Health Center. Positive results will also be confidentially shared with Omaha Public Schools public health. This will enable individuals to gain access to follow-up services and provide a link to care. UNMC will use anonymous testing data and environmental samples to support their research into COVID-19.
How will this information be used going forward?
UNMC will use anonymous testing data and environmental samples to support their research into COVID-19. Omaha Public Schools will use the data collected to improve health and safety protocols in schools – things like cleaning, how we enter and exit spaces and the number of people we allow to be in spaces. Information will be used to evaluate the processes in place and to determine any changes that should be made to maximize safety based on the results that we are seeing from this program.
Will testing be available at other schools in the future?
This testing program is being developed in a way that can be scaled to utilize partnerships in other parts of the city throughout Omaha Public Schools. The goal is to eventually offer this opportunity at all of our schools.
Is there a cost associated with the test for me or my student?
No. There is no cost for students or staff. The cost is being covered by philanthropic and in-house funding.
What are the general health and safety procedures for bus riders?
Before boarding the bus: Students should complete a health assessment with a parent every day prior to riding the bus. Students should have a required face covering on before boarding the bus. Whenever possible, students should practice social distancing at the bus stop.
When boarding the bus: Students must put on face covering and maintain an arm’s length distance before stepping onto the bus, waiting for the student in front to reach the top step of the bus before boarding. Students from the same household may be asked to share the same seats.
While on the bus: Hand sanitizer will be available for use at the top step. Students should proceed to the back of the bus and sit in the first available, designated seat. Students are expected to wear their face covering throughout the entire ride.
Exiting the bus: Students will unload from front to back, right to left, and everyone will remain seated until directed by the driver to exit. The bus driver will direct students when it is safe to exit. Once students have exited the bus, they will follow the directions of the school building staff.
How will buses be cleaned?
After all students have exited, the bus the driver will then start the Child Safety Check Procedure. Once that has been completed, the driver will then start the disinfectant process. The driver will spray seats with the district-approved disinfectant after each run throughout the day. At the end of the day, the driver will do a more thorough cleaning process of spraying and wiping down all high-touch surfaces.
Will OPS continue offering meal pick-up options?
Omaha Public Schools is offering Meals2Go at no cost to children ages 1-18 including remote learners. Click here for more information about Meals2Go.
What will the meal service look like for kids in school?
Based on capacity, each building will be responsible for deciding how meal services operate in our schools. All students must stop at the restroom on the way to lunch to wash their hands. Hand sanitizer will be used before entering the line. Face coverings will be worn when students are not eating.
What changes have been made to ensure safety in this area?
Students will see new meal options this school year as part of the district’s plan to ensure a responsible return to school. Grab-and-go options and tray covers will be available.
Will in school cleaning procedures change for nutrition services?
Yes. The nutrition services team will introduce enhanced cleaning procedures. Dining areas will be sanitized regularly.
Remote learning will remain an option for families who feel it is best for their student during this time. Please contact your student's school directly to request any adjustments to their attendance plan.
There will be differences in the full-time Remote Learning Program when compared to our current instructional model.
Students attend a daily morning meeting for attendance and community building via Teams
Students will receive five days of instruction in English Language Arts and Math through pre-recorded video lessons with task sheets to complete
Students will receive at least two days of instruction in Science or Social Studies through pre-recorded videos lessons with task sheets to complete
Teacher will meet 1:1 or in small groups with all remote learners at least once a week
Students will login, via Teams, for Specials (Art, Music, PE, Library) and/or complete pre-recorded video lessons
Limited Dual Language support will be provided
Special Education, EL, Gifted and Talented Education, and Guidance support will be provided
OPS Common Grading practices will be followed
Students will remain in current scheduled courses.
Students will participate in synchronous lessons by accessing their courses through Teams following their school’s bell schedule.
Students will commit to the Remote Learning Program for the duration of the semester.
Students in the Remote Learning Program will not be permitted to participate in-person extra-curricular activities.
OPS common grading practices will be followed.
Attendance policies will remain in place.
Special Education, EL, and School Counseling services are provided.
Students who choose the Remote Learning Program while our district transitions in-person learning will continue to receive special education services in the same manner they have since the start of school. Each student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) team will determine whether services will be provided remotely, in person, or a combination of the two in order to ensure that every student's IEP is fully implemented.
Based on the amount of interest, ongoing collaboration with staff and feedback, portions of the Remote Learning Program may evolve in the weeks to come to best serve our students.
With community spread, we know cases will be identified among employees and students. Our layers of health and safety precautions, created in partnership with health experts, are designed to limit its spread. To watch more about our health and safety protocols, click here.