OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Lincoln Public Schools will not be holding classes for the next three Fridays, Jan. 21, 28 and Feb. 4, as a way to deal with staffing shortages. These days, called "COVID Response Fridays," are being implemented to keep kids safe and in school, according to LPS Superintendent Dr. Steve Joel.
"We're experiencing a staffing crisis and we're concerned, as we speak, about having sufficient staff in our buildings each week to keep our schools open safely for student in-person learning," Joel said.
A rapid rise in COVID cases is causing the shortage. Joel says it's affecting all aspects of school, not just teachers.
"We're experiencing challenges at every position: teachers, paras, caterers, nurses, counselors, social workers, psychologists, transportation, security, and all of the other support positions that help run a school safely and a district safely," Joel said.
He says the situation has far exceeded anything they anticipated. With teachers out, they usually call in substitutes but there is a lack of substitutes as well. Without substitutes available, they're needing other teachers to cover classes, thus depriving teachers of planning periods.
Nebraska State Education Association President, Jenni Benson says it's a vicious cycle.
"There's this domino effect. Not only do you not get planning time, you also get then those other students who need extra services to help them with the academics, to help them look at what their needs are, they're not getting met because these folks are covering for other classrooms," Benson said.
During COVID Response Fridays, schools will be open and teachers will be working. Joel says these days will allow teachers to recoup and catch up on planning time. It will also be a day for teachers to work with students who are falling behind due to COVID absences.
Before and after school programs, as well as middle school extracurricular activities, will be canceled during this time. High school extracurriculars and athletics will continue. Families who need meals on Fridays when schools are closed can pick up one lunch and one breakfast on Wednesdays.
Joel says this move is temporary and while he understands the inconvenience this puts on families, especially working families, he hopes this will get them back on track.
On its website, LPS outlined the new COVID Response policy:
- No classes for students January 21, January 28, and February 4
- There will be no in-person or remote classes, and early intervention services for students on January 21, January 28, and February 4.
- TCA classes will be in session in consideration of dual credit instructional hour requirements and scheduling limitations.
- LPS buildings will remain open on these days and staff will be working.
- Elementary before and after school programs (CLCs) and middle school extracurricular activities and athletics and after-school programs (CLCs) will be closed. High school student extracurricular activities and athletic practices and events will continue as scheduled.
- High school CLCs will be closed.
- If families need meals for their students on Friday when school is not in session, you can pick up one breakfast and one lunch for each child on Wednesday. Friday meal sign-up form.
To review the rest of the COVID-19 response, visit LPS.org.
Watch Joel's press conference below or on the LPS Facebook page.