Students, Staff look at unusual school year

Fernanda+Aldana+attends+class+remotely+from+home+during+the+beginning+of+the+2020-2021+school+year.

Fernanda Aldana attends class remotely from home during the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.

Days before students started school, Omaha Public Schools switched from a family 3/2 model to 100 percent remote learning for the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year. This change was implemented as COVID-19 cases in Nebraska were on the rise.  

At this time, students, families, and staff are unsure if they will return to in-person learning in October or continue learning remotely for the remainder of the semester.   

“I am an internal optimist and I hope to return to school this year,” Assistant Principal Julie Johnson said. However, if we’ve learned anything since March, what we hope to happen and the reality of the world regarding Covid-19 are two different things. 

Johnson also serves as the Activities Director at Omaha South High. 

Adjusting to having meetings and teaching in empty classrooms, while staring at a computer screen has been an adjustment for all faculty and staff. 

“Our school building and our staff are lonely without our students’ energy! I miss school activities too, it’s strange to leave school and not see cheer, dance, fall sports, clubs, etc. etc. being held,” Johnson said. 

Adjusting to remote learning has been complicated for students as well, who have faced a myriad of complications from having access to technology, to navigating various new digital platforms and waiting on district iPads to arrive.  

“I think it was the right move and a good idea for now because of the pandemic but I think that a lot of students, teachers, and parents are struggling with trying to figure it out and keep up with everything,” Fernanda Aldana said. 

Aldana, a current junior, explained that remote learning hasn’t been difficult for her overall, but she easily gets distracted and forgets about homework.  

When and if students return to school, the district and teachers have planned what precautions they will be taking and how they are going to make sure all staff and students are safe. 

“When we return we will have a variety of measures in place that mirror the CDC guidelines, social distancing, mandatory masks for all students and teachers, hand washing protocols, sanitizing of work areas and desks just to name a few,” Johnson said. 

Clubs will meet virtually. Detentions will follow the CDC guidelines. When sports return, the district will decide if visitors will be allowed for games, matches and meets. 

The district has been working closely with University of Nebraska Medical Center regarding reopening. A significant part of that decision will rely on COVID-19 trends and the number of positive cases in Omaha.  

“I’m hopeful the number of Covid cases in our community and zip code will decrease so we can begin school again,” Johnson said. 

Johnson’s hopes for returning to in-person learning and a more traditional school experience is shared by educators and students alike. 

“I do hope to go back to school and being face to face with teachers and classmates because I find learning and keeping a steady schedule a lot easier that way,” Aldana said. “I miss the classroom setting and being able to easily communicate with teachers when necessary, I feel like a lot of students have fallen behind due to being at home rather than in the school building.”