LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt held a press conference to discuss the start of the 2020-2021 academic year in Nebraska’s K-12 schools.
John Wyvill, Executive Director of the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, joined the Governor and Commissioner Blomstedt. He talked about the challenges of the coronavirus for kids with special needs, and the plans in place to ensure their educational and social success this fall.
Piyush Srivastav, incoming Chair of the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools also spoke at this morning’s briefing. As a parent of a middle-school student and supporter of LPS, he shared his perspective on the importance of in-school learning.
Gov. Ricketts: Start of School
· As schools reopen, we want to continue to emphasize how important in-person learning is for the overall well-being of kids and their families.
· The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health and well-being of Americans.
· We’ve highlighted the risks associated with severe measures at coronavirus briefings over the past few months.
o The CDC is reporting a sharp rise in Americans considering suicide.
o There has also been a sharp increase in substance abuse.
· For people that need help, we want to remind them of the resources that are available:
o Nebraska Family Helpline: 1-888-866-8660
o Nebraska Rural Response Hotline: 1-800-464-0258
o National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
· Education plays an important role in helping kids learn and growing the overall social well-being of a child.
· In person learning is important for many reasons…
o Many students with special needs can’t receive the services they need over an iPad.
o Students from many families rely on school meals to supplement their nutrition.
o Teachers are often the top reporters of child abuse, meaning some abuse will go unreported when schools rely only on remote learning.
o Not every parent can devote time and attention to oversee remote learning.
Commissioner Blomstedt: Start of School
· As students come back and schools gain experience, we can continue to develop safer practices.
· We’re especially focused on individual student needs during this time. Parents and schools are working together closely to address issues and provide high-quality instruction for students with disabilities, individual education plans, or other special needs.
· Social and emotional well-being are particularly important during the pandemic. With my own children, I’ve seen the excitement of students to be back in class, interacting with their friends and teachers.
· Right now, a key part of the school environment is helping students and families learn to be thoughtful and safe in public settings.
· I’d like to thank our teachers. They have to figure out what’s best for their particular setting and then adapt as needed. We encourage their innovation as we navigate this school year.
· As a reminder, all of our back-to-school guidance is available online at www.launchne.com.
John Wyvill: Start of School
· Based on our experience at the end of last school year, we have firsthand knowledge that the disruption of school has been challenging for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
· We have a duty to these students to provide them with an appropriate education.
· Working in a remote environment is not the best scenario for these students.
· Parents or guardians may not have the training and skills to cope in a remote environment in order to set up students for success.
· The social/emotional challenge is evident in the deaf and hard-of-hearing student population. Without school, they may feel cut off from peers and have difficulty connecting with their friends.
· The Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is here to help Nebraskans during this time of uncertainty (ncdhh.nebraska.gov). Nebraska Hands & Voices, a nonprofit organization, is another helpful resource for the deaf and hard of hearing (www.handsandvoicesne.org).
Piyush Srivastav: Start of School
· I’m a small business owner here in Lincoln, and I have a daughter who attends Lincoln Public Schools (LPS).
· After reviewing the changes that LPS has made to mitigate the risk of the coronavirus, we felt comfortable sending our daughter to school for in-person learning.
o Wearing face coverings
o Limiting movement throughout school buildings
o Spacing desks farther apart
o Canceling assemblies
o Changing lunch procedures
· We’ve asked our daughter detailed questions about the changes, and we feel very comfortable with how LPS is handling this situation.
· Our daughter sees numerous advantages with in-person learning.
o Better quality of learning
o Better interaction with teachers
o Better interaction with peers for group projects
o Ease of exchanging ideas
· After one week of school at LPS, my understanding is that more students are opting for in-school learning.
· With in-person learning, mental health needs can be more readily identified and addressed. In-person learning also provides better access to good nutrition.
· At LPS Foundation, we’ve given over $400,000 in coronavirus-related assistance to families.
· LPS has worked very hard in collaboration with the city and local health department to come up with a comprehensive plan to tackle the challenges brought on by the pandemic.
Gov. Ricketts: Test Nebraska
· All Nebraskans are eligible for testing through Test Nebraska.
· I encourage Nebraskans to sign up, take the assessment, and schedule a time to get tested.
· We are pleased to announce that a new Test Nebraska site in South Omaha opens today.
· It will operate from 1:00-6:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
· The site is located at Metropolitan Community College’s South Omaha Campus.
· We encourage anyone who needs a test to sign up and get tested.
· The latest schedule is available at TestNebraska.com.
Full video of today’s press briefing is available by clicking here.