Many Lincoln parents are concerned that political pressure is outweighing science as Lincoln Public Schools reopens school. The burden of improving the economy during a pandemic must not fall on the teachers and children of our city. We reject any argument for re-opening schools that pits parents against teachers or that expects the chronically underpaid and disproportionately female labor force of public schools to risk their lives so that the economy can return to normal. We know that schools perform crucial child supervision for working parents; however, this cannot be the priority of schools when it means a significant risk to health. That problem must be solved by those best positioned to solve it, our state and federal government.
We acknowledge that much remains unknown about COVID, including its longterm consequences on the health of children. We know that the very dangerous inflammatory response (MIS-C) reported in some children with COVID is disproportionately afflicting Black and Latino children, who comprise the majority of MIS-C cases. We do not view the lives of these children as an acceptable price to pay so that our governor can announce that the state has reopened.
We are disheartened and frustrated that some of the most highly paid public employees in our community have shown a startling lack of creativity in re-opening schools, and we refuse to further pay for their lack of ingenuity with the lives of dedicated public servants or children.
Because LPS is waiting until the eleventh hour to announce its re-opening plans, leaving insufficient time for employees and families to respond, we have compiled a list of conditions for re-opening Lincoln Public Schools based on health guidelines, and we encourage all science-minded parents in Lincoln to expect these conditions to be met when LPS announces their plans on July 21.
- Lincoln Public Schools must at a minimum follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department. This means that schools must remain closed to in-person instruction when the Lancaster County risk dial is orange or red and must remain closed until the city enters the yellow risk level and sees a two-week decline in COVID cases.
- All staff in an at-risk category must be offered a chance to work in a no-contact or remote job at equal status until we are in the green.
- Remote learning must be available to all students and must be taught by dedicated remote learning teachers. Any LPS student must be allowed to opt into entirely remote learning at any time.
- Remote and in-person learning must ensure that students on a 504 plan or IEP are receiving appropriate instruction.
- All staff must be provided with sufficient PPE, including at least two two-layer cloth face masks.
- In keeping with CDC guidelines, all students must be screened for symptoms and exposure upon arrival at school and again at at least one more time in the day.
- Masks must be required for all staff and students except those with a documented medical need for exemption.
- Until our community stays in the green, low-risk dial category, students must be split into groups that attend school in half-day schedules, while pursuing remote learning during the times they are not in the building.
- Students should be encouraged to leave before lunch or arrive after lunch to reduce the number of students on school grounds without masks.
- For students who must eat at school, breakfast and lunch will be eaten in well ventilated classrooms or outside. School meals will be packaged and delivered to meal sites to reduce exposure in cafeteria lines.
- As necessary to minimize class sizes and contacts per day, special subject teachers should be assigned to teach a regular classroom.
- Lincoln Public Schools must have an agreement with the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department that any positive COVID test for any LPS student or staff member will be immediately reported to that person’s school. LPS will inform families that a student or staff member of their school tested positive for COVID.
- Students and teachers who shared a classroom with a COVID-positive person will be removed from school for a 14-day quarantine period, during which students can pursue digital learning and teachers will receive full pay.
- Students testing positive for COVID must have a negative test and 28 days since the positive test to be considered recovered and eligible for return to the classroom, consistent with the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department’s definition of “recovered.”