OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — School is back in session for elementary students in the Omaha Public Schools District.
“It’s hard to tell if the kids are more excited or the staff,” Hartman Elementary School principal Shelly Burghardt said. “The energy level is just electrifying when you walk down those halls.”
“Things are proceeding as normal and that’s where we want to keep things,” OPS Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan said.
Despite the rapid increase in COVID cases due to the delta variant and the battle the virus has given schools, class has returned in person.
“We hate to use the word unprecedented, but this is the third school year that we will be operating in a pandemic and we’re operating in person,” Dr. Logan said. “That is remarkable.”
The return comes with plenty of procedures in place to keep it that way.
“We have students entering at various doors based on their grade level. We have staff to meet them at each door, making sure they all have on a mask, making sure we spray hands when they enter,” Burghardt said. “When they come into the building, we have arrows down on the hallway floor that direct them to all go in one-way traffic.”
OPS has been full-time in person since February, and was on hybrid schedules before that, first starting last October.
Dr. Logan says consistency and having these in-person interactions are crucial for the students.
“They thrive on routines, and they thrive on predictability. Part of all the protocols that we have in place, including our masking for everybody, is an effort to make sure we can maintain those routines and daily instruction in person,” she says. “Here at Hartman and the other 94 schools that we have in our district.”
Burghardt says parents have been wonderful and have had no complaints about wearing masks. OPS is the only school district in the metro area that requires masks for all students K-12.
“At the end of the day, it’s teaching and learning. We wash our hands a whole bunch, we spray a whole bunch, and wear a mask. But we are still in there learning and making those connections,” Burghardt said.
The biggest struggle during all of this for Hartman Elementary has been the social and emotional piece, but now that is getting easier
“Not just for our kids, but for our teachers, our paraprofessionals, our secretary, our custodial staff, our bus drives – and when you all get back together and you’ve all experienced it and been through that journey, there’s just a reassurance that we’re all in it together,” Burghardt said. “We’re going to make it and we’re going to be fine.”
A priority for the school district has been transportation, as they are struggling to employ more bus drivers.
“It’s a big concern for us because we know our parents and young people depend on us, and we will move forward from there,” Dr. Logan said.
Today’s transportation went smoothly, but all the students didn’t return on Monday. Tuesday, first-year middle school and high school students will be returning to school. The rest of the district’s students will return by Wednesday, which is when they expect to have a better idea of where they stand.
Dr. Logan says the school district will continue to push the vaccine and hold clinics to get as many students and staff members vaccinated as possible.
However, when it comes to requiring vaccines for faculty and staff, Dr. Logan says that question is better directed for the Nebraska State Board of Education and Nebraska Health and Human Services.