As a precaution against COVID-19, three Knox County, Nebraska, school districts will keep their buildings closed for the remainder of the school year.
The Bloomfield, Santee and Unified School District #1 (Verdigre, Orchard and Clearwater) announced Monday they will not re-open this school year.
A number of northeast Nebraska school districts — including the three that made Monday’s announcement — are already closed through March 30 because of the coronavirus.
Superintendents Shane Alexander of Bloomfield and Dale Martin of Unified District 1 said their decisions not to re-open were made after hearing recommendations from state officials over the weekend.
“When your state (Nebraska Department of Education) leaders, with the support of the governor, send the message … restating what we were told in our weekly webinar on Sunday, it was pretty clear to me what needed to be done,” Alexander told the Press & Dakotan.
Alexander predicted neighboring school districts will follow suit. “You will see many more follow in the next day or two from (Educational Service Unit 8),” he said, referring to fellow members in the consortium of public and non-public schools.
The Bloomfield district will continue offering instruction for students and will remain operating on its current schedule, Alexander said.
Martin said his unified district was following the recommendations of state and local health officials, Gov. Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt.
“This is in response to the unique risks presented by the novel coronavirus,” Martin said on the school website. “The updated information from the North Central Health Department is that they are strongly recommending that we remain closed through the end of the current school year.”
While not in the classroom, students will continue learning, Martin said.
“We will be providing enrichment instruction to all of our students. This enrichment instruction will take many forms, depending on the grade level and the curriculum being covered,” he said.
Martin asked for patience in the remaining weeks of the school year.
“Keep in mind that a lot of our teachers are parents, too, so they will be caring for their children at home as well,” he said. “These are unique and difficult times, but we will get through this by working together and staying strong.”
The Santee school district posted its closure decision on the school’s website. Beginning March 30, Santee will move to an alternate learning structure and will initiate remote learning opportunities and optional tutoring.
“Santee will offer 1-1 tutoring for students to meet the unique needs and challenges — like managing learning despite social distancing, yet still trying to help students progress,” the school said on its website.
Optional individual tutoring will be offered in 30-minute time slots starting March 30 from 8:30 a.m. — 1:30 p.m.; Monday-Thursday. Anyone attending the optional tutoring, including staff, will have their temperature taken prior to entering the building.
Food service sign-up times will start Wednesday at the school from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., or online through the social media platform.
Santee Community Schools will also offer computer devices for check-out, with parent/guardian signatures, for students in grades 7-12. Chromebook check-out will run 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 30-31.
Knox County has recorded two of Nebraska’s positive tests for the virus.
The first case was a 16-year-old Crofton student who was treated in the biocontainment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He was discharged after three negative test readings for the disease.
The second case is a Bloomfield man in his 30s who tested positive for the virus. On March 18, North Central District Health Department (NCDHD) was made aware of additional community exposure times relating to the second positive COVID-19 case in Knox County.
At this time, the only known community exposure times related to the case, which remains at low risk, are 1-4 p.m. March 14 at Dollar General in Hooper, Nebraska; 9:30-11:30 a.m. March 15 at Country Market in Bloomfield; and 2-3 p.m. at Walmart and 3-3:30 p.m. at Sonic Drive-In drive-through, both March 16 in Norfolk, Nebraska.
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