Gov. Pete Ricketts has ordered every school across the state to close, with no students to be in schools as of March 18. Staff are still allowed in the buildings to plan, teach and clean. Here's how some area schools are responding.

SEWARD PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Seward Public Schools began remote learning on March 18, and Superintendent Dr. Josh Fields said it's going pretty well.

"There's going to be glitches, but we're doing the best we can," Fields said.

He thanked the 1,500 students in grades preschool through 12th and their families for jumping on board and working with staff and administrators to make the transition go smoothly.

The district checked out electronic devices to every student who needed one in order to complete online assignments and attend virtual class sessions.

"At this point, we are scheduled to be off until April 5. That's going to be reevaluated so it could be longer," Fields said.

MILFORD PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Milford's off-site learning plan will go into full effect Monday, March 23. The district has set up a website to share with every student and family that includes at least two weeks worth of assignments and activities appropriate for each grade level, from preschool through 12th grade.

In some instances, the school is distributing physical materials to go along with the lessons. In preschool, for example, school staff have delivered a bag filled with activities to every student's home, along with instructions on how to complete the activities.

At the junior/senior high school level, most courses have guidelines for turning in assignments through Google Classroom, Canvas, or email.

The district also is providing devices to students who need one and is offering wifi access in the elementary school's parking lot. Families were also provided a list of local companies who are providing free temporary internet service to students in need so they can continue learning. Some cellular carriers are also offering wifi hotspots.

CENTENNIAL PUBLIC SCHOOL: Like Seward and Milford, Centennial is gearing up for distance learning by creating a "one-stop-shop" for class assignments and resources on the school website.

The Centennial Board of Education held a special meeting March 19, during which it approved a resolution outlining its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The outpouring of community support has been awesome, and that's why this is a great place to work," DeWaard said.

The board authorized the superintendent to reassign staff as the need arises. For example, kitchen staff may be needed to deliver meals to students, or the nurse may be needed to help sanitize classrooms.

"A bus driver might not be a bus driver, and those types of things," Superintendent Tim DeWaard said. "I can also say in my 13 years here, if I've asked a staff member to help in one area or another, I don't think anybody's ever said no."

The board also discussed a plan to make sure teachers and staff are able to return to the school when the pandemic subsides. That means finding a way to pay them in the meantime.

"We can't pay them for not working," DeWaard said, so finding alternative jobs for them could help retain those staff in the long run.

Those jobs could be deep cleaning, painting or helping with special projects, or they could take advantage of professional development opportunities.

Staff like paraprofessionals will spend time online with students, just like other teachers, to help them work through lessons and spend one-on-one time with students who require more attention.

The board also suspended the district's requirement that students obtain a doctor's note before returning to school if they're sick. Four Corners Health Department is recommending businesses and organizations waive the requirement of a note so that hospitals and clinics are not inundated with requests they don't have time to fulfill.

Board members asked DeWaard about plans for the end of the school year, but DeWaard said answers are still to be found.

"I will be shocked if we're back in school this year. How we end it? I don't know right now," DeWaard said. "I have more questions than answers right now. It's such an unprecedented thing we're dealing with, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. I don't know what the future's going to bring. I know we're going to try to educate kids through the end of the school year the best we can."

MALCOLM PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Malcolm closed its doors to students on March 18 and has also switched to online learning, beginning March 23.

It has posted links on its website for each grade level to complete assignments and activities while students are out of school and expected to participate from home.

MORE INFORMATION: Schools are also working to prepare and deliver meals for those students who need them, since they no longer have access to breakfast and lunch during the school day. Additional information is available on each school district's website:


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