Update: July 31, 2020
Everyone acknowledges that a full return to in-classroom learning is a best-case scenario for our students’ educational advancement and social-emotional well-being so we are continuing to work to balance those needs with the competing interests of a pandemic. While we understand that there are current concerns about an increase in cases within Douglas County, we also believe that we need to take the first steps of returning to school so we can establish routines, find success in our protocols, and work towards normalcy for our children. Teaching our students to read, write, think critically, and other essential skills are functions that we do not take lightly. While we will continue to closely monitor all guidance provided by public health officials regarding the start of the 2020-2021 school year, our previously-stated plan to open our schools at near capacity on August 18th, 2020, remains in place. There is nothing easy about these circumstances, but we take these steps fully aware of the necessary fluidity of the situation. We also want you to assure you that the health and safety of your children will continue to be our priority as we return back to the classroom.
We heard from our community that offering a remote option would be beneficial for students and families with health and safety concerns. While there is no way to fully duplicate the work of our teachers and staff remotely, we are working to be able to provide remote learning accommodation plans. If this option is preferable for your family, please review the Remote Learning overview information and complete this Remote Learning Accommodations Request Form no later than Friday, August 7, 2020. Our intent is to honor parent judgment for these requests.
We understand that the threat of the virus remains, and we must take all prudent steps to make our schools as safe as possible. Local health experts inform that the layering of safety protocols such as frequent surface cleaning, symptom checks, hand washing, social distancing, and masks are our best defense against the spread, thus, allowing us to stay in school. We heard differing opinions on the wearing of masks over the past month. However, we must proceed with the requirement that all students and faculty will wear masks. An enforceable mask protocol was a common message from our staff and will be an especially helpful layer in keeping everyone healthy as teachers and staff are essential to our ability to remain in session. Additionally, students attending in-person learning are expected to adhere to all health guidelines, protocols, and procedures. Attendance at school will serve as your agreement to these terms. A full, detailed list of our updated health and safety protocols for this upcoming school year can be found here.
We anticipate that there will be quarantines, creating cycles through which we move from in-person to distance learning. Furthermore, updated health directives and requirements from state or local officials may be issued which could require a change in the amount of in-person learning allowed. With this in mind, we continue to refine several contingency plans that may need to be implemented at any time throughout the school year to protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and community. You can view information about EPS Contingency plans here. We urge you to have back-up childcare plans in place in response to all of these plans because this is a fluid situation that could require us to change course with limited notice.
Understandably, there are no perfect options before us, and none that we expect everyone to agree with completely. However, we believe that these plans represent a balanced solution that puts the educational experiences of Elkhorn’s children first, honors the needs of families by offering a remote option, and responds to the concerns of staff members regarding masks and safety. Notably, our teachers, staff, administration, and Board of Education have been so supportive in navigating these challenges. At this time, we feel it is not in the best interests of our students or families to proceed indefinitely with a distance-only option. Likewise, it is not acceptable to implement any in-person experiences without taking every precaution available to protect our students and staff members from the harm this virus may bring.
Our continued community partnership is essential as we take the steps necessary to navigate this pandemic, and we appreciate your patience, support, and cooperation going forward. Please continue to monitor your email, as principals and teachers will begin to communicate in the coming weeks with specific school and classroom based routines and protocols.
Bary Habrock, Superintendent
As of July 1, 2020
We continue to closely monitor all guidance from public health officials regarding our return to school for the 2020-2021 school year. In reviewing this information, and in alignment with the recent announcement from both the Governor and the Commissioner of Education to return to in-person learning, we have the resolve to welcome nearly 100% of students to school for in-classroom instruction on our originally scheduled date of Tuesday, August 18, 2020. Notably, construction at both Elkhorn North High School and Woodbrook Elementary continues to progress as expected, and both schools will be prepared for in-classroom learning on August 18.
Everyone acknowledges that a full return to in-classroom learning is a best-case scenario for our students’ educational advancement. Additionally, the social-emotional well-being of our students is in play as most want and need to be back in school. However, we understand that some students and/or families may have health concerns that will prohibit their students from returning to in-classroom instruction at this time. Accommodations can be made to assist with these circumstances by contacting Executive Director of Student Services Anne Doerr at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The safety of all is the sole motivation for our return to school protocols because we cannot ignore that the threat of this virus remains, and we must take all prudent steps to keep our schools from becoming the uninterrupted source by which it spreads in our community. Local health experts inform that the layering of safety protocols such as frequent surface cleaning, symptom checks, hand washing, social distancing, and masks are our best defense against the spread thus allowing us to stay in school. To this end, we expect that mask-wearing will be an important measure to be utilized to further protect the health of our students and staff while in school. Students and staff will be expected to wear masks as much as reasonable and appropriate. Principals and teachers will work with students and families on what is reasonable and appropriate for each individual student. Your help is essential in creating as safe of an environment as possible, navigating public-health imperatives, and helping us stay in session, which is the best option for most students. Detailed safety protocols for this upcoming school year can be found here.
We must also anticipate that there will be outbreaks, creating cycles through which we move from in-person to remote learning. Furthermore, updated health directives and requirements from state or local officials may be issued which could require a change in the amount of in-person learning allowed. With this in mind, we have created several backup plans that may need to be implemented at any time throughout the school year to protect the health and safety of our students, staff, and community. You can view information about EPS Contingency plans here.
We will continue to refine our plans, but we wanted to provide this update in full transparency of our best intentions for students and staff in August. Follow-up communication will also be sent by building principals in early August with additional information and detailed plans for building-specific procedures and activities. We also understand that extracurricular and co-curricular activities are an important part of the school experience, and we remain hopeful that these can be offered safely for our students.
We appreciate your patience and support as we navigate the challenges that are sure to come. Our continued community partnership is essential as we take this step towards normalcy and unify our resolve to return to school with the necessary safety measures for our students and staff.
Bary Habrock, Superintendent