LINCOLN – This morning, Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt held a press briefing to discuss plans for K-12 students to head back to the classroom this fall.
Gov. Ricketts: Back to School (K-12)
· There are many reasons why it’s important for schools to be open this fall.
o Remote learning can be less effective, and it’s important that we provide the highest quality education possible.
§ Not every parent is able to devote individual time and attention to oversee remote learning indefinitely.
o Social isolation isn’t good for the well-being of kids. They need interaction with their friends and the mentorship teachers provide.
o Education promotes physical activity and a healthy lifestyle.
o Kids battling food insecurity have better access to good nutrition when they’re in school.
· Getting kids back into the classroom is critical to their well-being. CDC Director Robert Redfield recently reported that his agency is seeing more suicides and drug overdose deaths, among the high school population, than fatalities from coronavirus.
· Dr. Redfield has also highlighted the extremely low risk of the virus to school-age children. In fact, the CDC says that coronavirus is five to ten times less deadly than the flu for school-age kids.
Commissioner Blomstedt: Back to School (K-12)
· We’ve been doing thoughtful work at the Department of Education with schools, health officials, and other partners to ensure the best and safest environments possible.
· We value equity, and it’s important to maintain access to high-quality teaching for all students in Nebraska.
· While pursuing flexibility and innovation, we don’t ever want to sacrifice quality.
· We’re working with schools to ensure that they can manage the safety of students and staff, while keeping their educational system moving forward.
· Gauging and understanding the level of risk has been a key part of our back-to-school planning.
· We’ve asked schools to thoughtfully analyze risk in conjunction with local and state health officials.
· We’re also asking schools to identify and tailor their protocols in light of conditions in their community.
· We’re then supporting schools as they engage staff, students, and parents to communicate their plan for a safe return.
· In addition to assessing risks at our schools, we also have to weigh the costs of NOT having students in the classroom. These costs are significant, and we don’t take them lightly.
· We’ve sought counsel from medical experts, both nationally and here in Nebraska, but decisions about schools ultimately rest with policymakers.
· We anticipate the need to be flexible, and we’re committed to working alongside school districts as they welcome students back this fall.
· All of our back-to-school guidance is available online at www.launchne.com.
Gov. Ricketts: Test Nebraska
· All Nebraskans are now eligible for testing through Test Nebraska.
· We are pleased to announce that our second Omaha site at Oak View is now operating. We expect this to eventually double the number of test slots available in Omaha.
o Omaha: We have 1,600 slots at Crossroads, and we are planning to eventually have 1,600 slots at Oak View as well.
o Lincoln: Due to the approach of the school year, the Test Nebraska site in Lincoln has moved from North Star High School to Gateway Mall.
· Last week, Test Nebraska set a new record with 3,791 people swabbed in a single day.
· I encourage Nebraskans to continue to sign up, take the assessment, and schedule a time to get tested.
· Go to TestNebraska.com to see the latest schedule.
Full video of today’s press briefing is available by clicking here.