BEATRICE – The Beatrice School District has approved a Safe Return to School plan for this fall. It calls for students to return to classroom buildings but allows the district to enact precautionary steps should Covid-19 cases reach ten-percent of the district’s students and staff, or a total of about 250 cases.
The Beatrice School board made two adjustments to the plan….allowing for consideration of federal and state recommendations, and establishing a parental waiver requirement for Covid vaccinations, much like what’s done for a flu shot.
Superintendent Jason Alexander says the plan is a requirement for receiving a third round of Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funding.
"In preparation for the ESSER Three plan...the federal and state guidelines will be just that...guidelines. So, if the CDC comes out with a guideline like they did over the weekend....it's a guideline. But, local districts have control over their safe to return plans, as long as they address the criteria required."
It means a traditional start to the school year, unless Covid cases would grow significantly. Alexander says Beatrice Public Schools will be getting over $2.9 million in third-round ESSER support.
"We also know that twenty percent, or $592,640 must go to address the learning loss among all students. The remaining approximate $2,370,564 we'll be talking about the use of it to improve indoor air quality in our future facilities."
The Safe Return to School plan must be submitted to the Nebraska Department of Education by Thursday. Alexander said the district had to establish a plan that everyone can live with.
"Which requires us to come to the middle, at some point. I've shared the time frame with you so you can understand why that's important. Although we may have opinions that are polar opposite, whether among ourselves, in the community, or the state, or the nation or the world, on Covid...and how we handle it...we have to be able to come to the middle in order to create a situation where we can all keep moving forward."
Beatrice Public Schools took public feedback on the proposed plan by the district’s website, Facebook page and a survey. Under the plan, the district would rely on the advice of public health agencies, local hospitals and medical experts, with the ability to consider state and federal guidelines. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jackie Nielsen says the school return plan must be reviewed every six months under the ESSER-Three round of funding, through September, 2023.
The establishment of the Safe Return Plan comes as some states are seeing spikes in a new variant of Covid-19. The components of the plan are available on the Beatrice Public School website.