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Beatrice middle and high schools to return to online learning

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Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17, Beatrice middle school and high school students will once again move to online learning.

Beatrice Public Schools Superintendent Jason Alexander released a statement to students, parents and community members Thursday evening stating that the tier four online learning will continue through at least Nov. 29. He said Monday, Nov. 16 will be a no school day for the middle and high school students to allow teachers a preparation day, and that preschool through fifth grade students will report to school as normal at this time.

Alexander noted several reasons for the closure, including that the district is extremely short of teachers and paraeducator substitutes, that there are roughly 176 students, 63% of which from the middle and high schools, already quarantined and remote learning, that Gage County has moved to the high risk or red zone for COVID cases, and that Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center are currently seeing an influx of patients.

“We know these decisions impact the entire community,” Alexander said. “It is our hope that by keeping our dependent [PK-5th] learners in school, our parents can continue to work. We also know that our independent learners are capable of learning from home, which will be the expectation.”

Alexander said the district’s goal is to keep the dependent learners in school as long as possible, while also knowing that they will have to evaluate and decide if it’s necessary to also enter remote learning with them, as well.

“We ask for and appreciate your cooperation in helping to keep your student on track and learning during this time,” Alexander said. “Our teachers will be working hard to ensure as much normalcy as possible during these unusual times, and it’s important to understand that students learning from home are expected to log on, engage, and learn even on the days that they are not physically in the classroom.”

Similarly, the Beatrice Public Library has also closed to the public again until further notice. People can schedule curbside pickup of materials or renew loans by calling 402-223-3584.

The Beatrice High School Twitter account released more information to students Thursday night about what online learning will look like.

On Mondays and Thursdays, students will have their first, third, fifth and seventh block classes. Tuesdays and Fridays, students will have their second, fourth, sixth and eighth block classes, and Wednesdays will be a workday and a check-in for all classes.

First or second block will take place from 8:15-8:45a.m., third or fourth block from 9-9:30p.m., fifth or sixth block from 9:45-10:15p.m., and seventh or eighth block from 10:30-11p.m.

The remainder of each day is designated for students to watch classroom content or complete assignments, with teachers available from 7:45a.m.-3:45p.m. each school day, or by appointment.

The Twitter announcement stated that expectations for students are that they attend all Zoom or Google Meets classes fully prepared for learning and following the school dress code. Attendance will be taken at each meeting, and if a student has an issue preventing them from attending the scheduled course time, they must communicate with their teacher to arrange something else. Daily work must be submitted by 9p.m. the day it is due, with short assignments being assigned for all classes on Wednesdays to be that day's attendance.

The announcement stated that grades in tier four are fluid, and will reflect student performance on assignments and assessments. Grades will change based on completion of work, similar to what was established with students during the fall 2020 semester.

Alexander noted that some 6th-12th grade students will be notified to continue attending school in-person dependent upon special needs, and that teachers will communicate further details to students on Friday and Monday. Students still doing in-person learning will see some increased screening measures, including that all students will be screened with temperature checks upon entering the building, that masks will continue to be mandatory for K-5 and strongly recommended for preschoolers, and the possible staggering of entry and exit times and locations.

"We will continue to monitor the preschool and elementary numbers, and make decisions as needed as we move through the rest of this situation," Alexander said.

Alexander said that similarly to the middle and high schools, the preschools and elementary schools may move to tier four online learning if there's an increase in COVID cases, a large portion of students already quarantined and working remote, and if the schools are short on teachers and can't find enough substitutes.

Alexander said the online learning will be re-evaluated, with further details announced Nov. 24 and 25 outlining plans for two to four weeks at a time.

“The sooner the community-wide situation improves, the sooner we will be able to return to something closer to normal,” Alexander said. “With these extraordinary measures, we hope to help our community weather this situation and return to a safer place for everyone. We cannot thank you enough for your continued understanding, patience, and support.”

Alexander said that any questions can be directed to a student’s teacher, the building level administrator, or central office for details regarding individual situations.

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