(KFOR NEWS November 20, 2020) The Nebraska State Education Association has filed a petition with the State Board of Education asking it to adopt safety interventions and protocols under which Nebraska schools will operate and remain open until the risk of COVID-19 transmission is controlled.
In a statement from the NSEA, President Jenni Benson said:
“Our state public education system is facing a crisis of historic proportion due to an unprecedented surge of COVID-19.”
The uncontrolled transmission of the virus has put the Nebraska school system in crisis. Gubernatorial and Nebraska Department of Education recommendations regarding use of face coverings continue to be largely ignored by many school districts. School buildings, classrooms and education programs are closing on a daily basis largely due to a shortage of teachers. The current situation in many school districts is not sustainable.
If schools are required to close again, there will be long-term harm to children. Closure will lead to severe learning loss and will be particularly damaging for students with heightened behavioral needs. Schools provide a stable and secure environment for developing social skills and peer relationships. Social interaction at school among children in grades PK-12 is particularly important for the development of language, communication, social, emotional and interpersonal skills. Extended school closures deprive children who live in unsafe homes and neighborhoods and offer an important layer of protection from neglect as well as physical, sexual and emotional maltreatment and abuse. Schools are essential to meeting the nutritional needs of children with many consuming up to half of their daily calories at school. When schools are closed, children lose access to important opportunities for physical activity. Schools play a critical role in supporting the whole child, not just their academic achievement.
Unless immediate and meaningful action is taken by the State Board to identify the mitigation strategies that must be undertaken by all schools under its jurisdiction, irreparable harm will occur to our state’s education system, educators, students and state as a whole.
The Nebraska State Board of Education is the constitutional body charged with the responsibility and authority to provide “enlightened professional leadership, guidance, and supervision of the state school system . . .”. NDE Rule 10 requires that schools maintain “safe, healthful, and sanitary conditions within school building(s) and on the school grounds.” State statute authorizes the Board to make studies, investigations, and reports for formulation of policies, making plans, and for evaluating school programs. The Board must do exactly that if we are to keep our schools open and provide a safe learning environment for students and staff in this pandemic.
State statute also provides that the State Board has authority to interpret its own policies, standards, rules and regulations and, upon reasonable request, hear complaints. Therefore, NSEA has filed with the State Board a Petition for a Declaratory Order under NDE Rule 62 requesting that the State Board declare the following interventions and protocols be adopted as specific safety criteria under which schools will operate and remain open until the risk of COVID-19 transmission is abated.
The petition further requests that the Board direct that studies, investigations and reports be prepared regarding the transmission of the virus in the school systems under its authority and take such remedial action as is necessary to enforce these safety accreditation standards.
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