School districts plan to return on-site after Thanksgiving break

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 9:14 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) - Some Grand Island school districts are being hit hard during this second surge of Coronavirus cases, and the unpredictability of this pandemic puts in question whether they will continue with in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year.

“We’re in it right now,” Grand Island Central Catholic Principle Jordan Engle said. “We’re in the thick of it, this second wave is really hitting Grand Island hard. It’s hitting the schools hard, but we’ll bounce back.”

Earlier this week, Grand Island Central Catholic had switched to virtual learning because too many staff members tested positive to continue in-person instruction.

“We’ve had a large number of students who have either been positive with COVID or who have been quarantined throughout the year,” he said. “If they’re at home, it’s a lot easier for us too at home when they’re quarantined than it is if my teachers are at home quarantined trying to engage students here.”

Even though its been rough this past week GICC plans to be back in session on Nov. 30.

“In this particular situation where it’s because of sick staff, the nice thing is in two weeks everybody is back. Ideally, they’re feeling a whole lot better,” Engle said.

Grand Island Public Schools will continue with their re-imagined model where they will be teaching students in-person and virtually. It’s been hard with staff being pulled out to quarantine and teachers wearing several hats to cover classes, but their goal is to keep kids in school for the sake of their learning and development.

“When this pandemic is over, our students will still have to answer the call to be college and career ready, and the learning that takes place for when they are at school on-site. That is the type of experiences that we have always tried to offer our students here at Grand Island Public Schools,” Superintendent Dr. Tawana Grover said.

Engle said it’s important for students to stay in school for their social and emotional well-being.

“I think any administrator you ask is going to agree that being in-person for classes is about so much more than just academics,” the principle said. “There’s nutrition aspects with kids we know for sure is going to get a quality meal at school. There’s mental health aspects where we have staff members who are trained to be watching our students in the hallway with a fair amount of accuracy who can pick out students who are having a hard time.”

GIPS will not be making changes to its policies moving forward because it has been working. They haven’t experienced large groups of students catching the virus inside of the schools.

GICC on the other hand is considering changing its spectator policy. They’re worried about the students’ grandparents and the elderly who attend events.

“I think that we’re going to take a look at extra-curricular activities,” Principle Engle said. “We’re really going to have to be critical of our extra-curricular activities and deciding which activities we’re going to allow spectators and also who are those spectators going to be.”

Both districts won’t be switching solely to remote learning unless directed by the health department or governor. They also hope the city votes on a mask mandate. In order for kids to stay in school, the community has to step up and do its part.

“We’re not that far away from vaccine deployment. It doesn’t seem like it, but we’ve been in this now for almost nine months,” Engle said. “When we talk about only having to get through a few months before vaccine begins getting deployed to our most vulnerable citizens, this mask policy is not so bad. We can do it.”

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