By Joana Le Flores, Community Arts Activist
Since the official move to distance learning among all area school districts, Omaha Public Schools has worked to help navigate this time for its 53,552 students. Top among its priorities are engaging students and addressing food. While schools are physically closed, ongoing efforts focus on ending the academic year strong while preparing for a safe and productive start to the next school year.
During the first virtual OPS Board of Education meeting held April 15th, Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Logan detailed these efforts.
Virtual Learning Opportunities
“Our teachers, principals and technology teams have dedicated countless hours toward migrating lessons online for our students to continue learning at home during this unprecedented time when they themselves are also under stress and concern for their loved ones and their families,” Dr. Logan said.
Since the closing of schools, teachers have provided weekly activities online for students. The district printed eight weeks of grade-specific elementary learning packets for math, reading and writing. While the packets and activities do not need to be physically turned in, it is encouraged that families try to keep students on a schedule throughout the day. A number of virtual tools have been provided on an Omaha Public Schools distance learning resource page.
“As a part of our immediate work to support student learning, we are in the process of purchasing an additional 2,000 iPads for students to use during summer school,” Dr. Logan shared during the last special meeting for the Board of Education on April 20, 2020. “In addition, we’re working to remove some obstacles we know some families are currently experiencing in terms of devices and connectivity. We are contingency planning to position our school district to support our families as best as we can to minimize disruption to our students’ education.”
Fighting Food Insecurity
“We’ve served more than 30,000 meals a week to families in our community these past several weeks, Dr. Logan said, adding that other meal distributions “continue to operate through our partnership with Food Bank for the Heartland.”
Currently, OPS Nutrition Services is providing grab-and-go meals each week to children in need. On Mondays at 11 a.m., OPS provides a grab-and-go package with a week of breakfasts and lunches for students. Eight locations participate:
1. Benson High
2. Beveridge Middle
3. Bryan Middle
4. Gateway Elementary
5. Nathan Hale Middle
6. Norris Middle
7. Skinner Magnet
8. South High
Upon arriving at each school, families will drive through to pick up food. One package of meals will be available per student/child in the vehicle. If you are unable to bring children in the vehicle, please bring a student ID, report card or other verification for each student.
“We care and we are here for our students,” said Nutrition Services Director Tammy Yarmon. “I am glad that this support can help students focus on learning activities, reading and staying active during this time.”
For a list of other community feeding sites, visit https://foodbankheartland.org/covid-19/.