Governor and Educators Outline Fall Safety Plans

Lincoln, NE (August 13, 2020) Governor Pete Ricketts and representatives from community colleges and Catholic schools in Nebraska outlined steps Thursday that they are taking to make their campuses as safe as possible in the coming Fall Semester.

Greg Adams, Executive Director of the Nebraska Community College Association, joined the Governor to provide an overview of the work being undertaken at community colleges across the state to help students and teachers stay healthy while resuming classes.  Jordan Engle, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Grand Island, highlighted the preparations and precautions of Catholic schools as classes restart.

Gov. Ricketts: Back-to-School – Community Colleges

  • Nebraska’s community colleges have taken numerous steps to encourage healthy behaviors and to create healthy spaces on campus.

o  Arranging classroom seating to put more distance between students.

o  Moving tutoring and advising to a virtual platform.

o  Sanitizing and disinfecting residence halls and shared dining areas more often.

o  Reworking academic calendars.

Gov. Ricketts: Back-to-School – Catholic Schools

  • Catholic schools across Nebraska have worked hard to ensure continuity of their excellent quality of education.
  • Schools are using many tools including:

o  Social distancing

o  Students traveling in cohort groups

o  Ensuring good ventilation of classrooms

o  Limiting the duration of students’ proximity to one another

o  Developing remote learning instructional models where needed

“I know students and their families appreciate the efforts Catholic schools and other private schools are taking to help folks stay healthy.”

Greg Adams: Back-to-School – Community Colleges

  • Within the next two weeks, all six of our community colleges will be open, and we’ll be open as close to normal as we can possibly be.
  • Over the past several months, all of our colleges’ leadership have been meeting together, with colleagues at other institutions of higher education, with local health departments, and with the Governor’s Office.
  • We’ve also surveyed our students to better learn their level of precaution and intentions for this fall.
  • We’re fully confident we can open up in-person to provide a valuable, productive, and safe educational environment.
  • We also understand the need for flexibility.  We’re ready to try a new strategy if something isn’t working well.
  • In general, our six campuses are operating with the following protocols:

o  Masks will be required of students, faculty, and staff.

o  We’ll be working with Test Nebraska on all campuses to provide access to voluntary testing.

o  We’ve reduced capacities in dormitories for those campuses that have residences.

o  As a community college, vocational/technical classes are very important.

  • Many of these classes are hands-on learning environments.
  • We’re planning on 100% person-to-person instruction in all of our vocational classes.  We’re providing additional spacing and requiring masks.

o  We have all the personal protective equipment (PPE) we need to open campuses.  Thanks to the State of Nebraska for helping us obtain it.

  • All six of our campuses are doing our utmost to recruit Nebraskans who’ve been affected by the pandemic to take part in the Workforce Retraining Initiative.
  • The Nebraska Department of Labor, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, and Nebraska Chamber have all been great partners on this program.

Jordan Engle: Back-to-School – Catholic Schools

  • Catholic schools in Nebraska are uniquely positioned to open in a safe and effective way in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • It’s important for us to have a uniform plan as we engage public health officials for guidance on reopening.
  • At the same time, we must also consider the differences in local risk, school demographics, and other factors unique to each school.
  • We have a lot of diversity in our schools in terms of enrollment size and age-groups served.
  • Given the differences among our schools, it’s important for us to give them some degree of freedom as students go back to school.
  • However, on a diocesan level, we plan to reopen schools with the following policies:

o  Students will wear masks as much as possible during the school day.

o  Students will practice social distancing wherever possible.

o  Our physical spaces have been modified to allow as much space as possible between students while learning, dining, or traveling between classes.

o  School administrations will remain in close contact with local health departments.

o  Our schools will stay open for in-person instruction as long as the local health department deems it safe to do so.

o  We wholeheartedly believe that the best education happens in-person, in a safe environment.

“We’re committed to a deep and meaningful Catholic education for our students.  As we fulfill this mission, the safety of our families is paramount to us.”