U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will visit Midland University's Omaha campus Wednesday before coming to Lincoln Thursday to see the Lincoln Public School's science focus program.
As part of her "Rethink School" tour, DeVos went to two Wyoming schools Tuesday and planned to head to Colorado Wednesday.
After visiting two Colorado schools, she will head to Omaha, where she will visit the Midland campus at 11213 Davenport St., according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Education.
The university based in Fremont — where U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse was president until he was elected to the Senate — opened the Omaha campus in May.
The campus, near TD Ameritrade headquarters in west Omaha, offers a Master of Business Administration program and includes a "collaborative space where students can work, café areas for community events, and office spaces that could serve as startup homes to local small businesses," according to the Midland website.
The campus also offers a program for para-educators to earn teaching degrees.
DeVos will be there from 6-6:50 p.m.
The U.S. Department of Education has yet to announce her Thursday schedule, although LPS officials on Tuesday did confirm DeVos' planned visit.
DeVos will tour the district's zoo school and meet with students and staff members.
“Our school district looks upon this visit as an exciting opportunity to share information about our Science Focus Program -- and our fine Lincoln Public Schools public education system -- with the U.S. Secretary of Education,” said LPS Superintendent Steve Joel in a statement. “The students at Lincoln Public Schools have a wide variety of options and possibilities for their public education: through a rich array of LPS programs, as well as partnerships with local business and industry, higher education institutions, and private and parochial schools.”
The zoo school is 20 years old, the first of what grew to be four focus programs at LPS. Two of those, technology and entrepreneurship, were folded into The Career Academy when it opened on the Southeast Community College campus.
This year, 105 students attend zoo school, and 130-150 apply each year, according to LPS. The school has two science teachers and one teacher each for math, social studies and English. Students who attend remain a part of their home high schools but spend three 90-minute blocks at the zoo school each day beginning at 10:10 a.m.
Speakers, field trips and research trips are a big part of each class, and students complete portfolios at the end of each semester to show what they’ve learned. Wednesdays are “focus days,” where students work on research and portfolio projects.
The Lincoln Children’s Zoo will be closed Thursday to accommodate the DeVos visit.
DeVos, a former Republican Party chairwoman in Michigan, is a longtime supporter of school choice and a force behind the spread of charter schools in her home state. Her nomination by President Donald Trump and narrow confirmation in the Senate drew spirited protests.
Lincoln Police Capt. Mike Woolman said LPD is working with the U.S. Marshal’s Service and will find a place where protesters or other onlookers can legally and safely gather during Devos' visit.
“We want to protect people’s rights of freedom of speech and their right to protest,” he said.
The group Suit Up Nebraska-Lancaster County, which has about 800 followers, has issued a “call to action” on Facebook for people to gather on the west side of 27th Street across from the zoo on Thursday to show their support for public schools.
“There was a lot of chatter on the Facebook page and people wanted something organized," said Deb Levitov, the group's co-chair. "We decided to show support for public schools and get the message to DeVos that public schools are important and strong in Nebraska.”
During her visit to Woods Learning Center in Casper, Wyoming, on Tuesday, about 30 protesters stood on a hill outside the school. They brought teddy bears in an apparent reference to a comment DeVos made during her confirmation hearing about some schools in Wyoming possibly needing guns to protect themselves from grizzlies.
DeVos praised Natrona County’s policy that allows students to attend any school in the county and urged educators to move away from what she called an outdated model for educating students, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.
Woods Learning Center is a 26-year-old program where multiple grade levels learn in the same classroom and a group of teachers run the school instead of a principal, the Star-Tribune said.
"Open enrollment gives families the opportunities to find the schools that are best for them and their children," she said in her speech. "Students, your parents know you best. And they are in the best position to select the best learning environment for you."
DeVos also visited St. Stephens Indian School on the Wind River Reservation Tuesday.
She will visit Firefly Autism House in Denver and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before coming to Omaha on Wednesday. Her tour also includes stops in Kansas, Missouri and Indiana.