More on this petition:
Support Remote Learning Option For Nebraska Schools A Provision to choose remote learning & no mandatory in-person school attendance, during the COVID-19 global pandemic situation, irrespective of the health condition. An appeal by the concerned parents of Millard Public Schools (MPS) and Elkhorn Public Schools (EPS), Nebraska, to provide an option to choose remote learning for our children, starting Fall 2020, due to the constant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. We also appeal that no mandatory in-person attendance at schools be implemented. We, the concerned parents of Nebraska, respect the decision of the School Boards to re-open the school buildings and understand that many other families are comfortable with the decision. We do not have anything against the parents and the families ready to send their children to school in Fall 2020; nor against the School Boards’ decision to reopen the school buildings. We are just advocating remote learning for the families who are not comfortable sending their children to the school for in-person education given the COVID-19 situation. With all due respect to the safety measures and guidelines proposed by the MPS & EPS school boards for the re-opening of the school buildings, we parents are concerned about the health & safety of our children & families, due to the wide exposure and the highly infectious nature of the virus. We are not comfortable sending our children to schools until the current situation is in control. With regards to this, we appeal to the School Boards to provide us with an option to choose remote learning for our children. (Remote learning includes, but is not exclusive to, online learning/ e-learning and/or virtual learning.) The Appeal: We, the undersigned, are concerned parents of students attending public schools in Nebraska in the school districts of Millard and Elkhorn. In connection with the current decision from the school districts to re-open the school buildings for Fall 2020 and have the schools start at 100% capacities from August 2020, we respectfully submit this petition advocating the adoption of the following goals for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year, until the COVID-19 situation comes in control and all families feel safe to send their children back to school for in-classroom education: 1. Provision for families to choose 100% remote learning education option for their children. We are just appealing for this option for families who want to opt for it and this should not change anything for families who are willing to send their kids to school for in-person classroom education. 2. No mandatory in-person attendance at school. Parents should be allowed the flexibility to decide whether to physically send their children to school without repercussions on grade, transcripts, or attendance. We acknowledge the incredible challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for MPS and EPS and appreciate the steps taken to safeguard our children’s health and safety while striving to maintain equal academic access for all students. We appreciate the quick decisions taken by MPS & EPS authorities in switching to remote learning on the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak in Nebraska in Spring 2020. We thoroughly appreciate the involvement from the school teachers and staff in making the remote learning process as valuable as, and as smooth as possible for the students in Spring 2020. We understand that MPS & EPS have determined their academic strategy and logistics for the next academic year including compliance with the CDC guidelines and other safety measures. We note that along with the concern for health and safety of the children, many parents have the concern of child-care and various other concerns, where they may deem it to be fit, for the schools to re-open; and hence we are not advocating no schools at all; we are just advocating an option of remote learning for families who aren’t comfortable sending their kids to schools yet; and where homeschooling isn’t an option for such families. We also note that the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid and is currently on an upward trajectory with Nebraska reporting daily increase in number of cases. In this context, we urge MPS and EPS to adopt the goals stated above. Further to elaborate 1. A provision for families to choose 100% remote learning option tied directly to the students’ assigned schools should be made available, rather than any “independent study” program or “homeschooling” where students are detached from their assigned schools and teachers. Students should be allowed to participate in mainstream education for their respective grades within their school community utilizing a distance learning model that does not require them to be physically present in school. There are several scenarios which necessitate this option being provided to families and the students: Health and Safety: o Students who are immuno-compromised and those with pre-existing health conditions may be required to learn remotely for an extended and unforeseeable time-period. We note that the Schools are willing to work with such families and are in the process of obtaining the necessary documentation to plan on providing alternative options for education. o There are several families who have family members with non-documented milder conditions or mild comorbidities and could be susceptible to the risks of complications of the disease, which are unknown yet, due to the novel nature of the virus. o Also, the younger siblings of the students and family members in extended families, including vulnerable senior citizens, could be at increased risk. o If a family member is diagnosed with COVID -19, that student along with all other students in his/her “class of 20 to 25” would have to be quarantined. This will disrupt the learning schedule for those students for at least two weeks. If more cases come to light, the quarantine will be extended again for those students. This cycle can, hypothetically, get repeated several times. o Even if the school implements protocols to conduct temperature checks or sanitize equipment, there is no preventive identification of asymptomatic carriers of the virus. o Asymptomatic carriers can put students, teachers, and other administrators and families at increased risk for contracting the virus. o Schools do not have the resources or the manpower to enforce the ordinance on face coverings. Masks are required by CDC for everyone’s safety and we do advocate wearing masks. However, keeping masks on for a longer period of time is nearly impossible for students especially the Elementary Schoolers and has the potential to cause viral infections due to constant touching of face or mask. That being said, not wearing a mask is not an option either, as that will put the students and staff at a higher exposure of the virus. Uniformity and equality in education: We appeal that the measures to be undertaken by MPS & EPS further ensure that all students are given equal access on all the learning platforms. Limit the spread: The benefit of offering an online learning option for ready-to-learn students is that, it limits the need for their participation in class physically, and therefore, limits the probability of further spread of the virus. We are requesting this option only for families who want to opt for it. We do not have anything against the families who are ready to send their kids back to school for in-person classes. In fact, having an online learning option will further ensure limited number of students in the classrooms and it would be easier for the staff & students to implement social distancing and follow other precautionary measures. Our goal is to make the schools a safer place for our children to learn virtually. We, as parents, are willing to provide the necessary support to MPS & EPS to help enable this. 2. Parents should be allowed the flexibility to decide whether to physically send their children to school without repercussions on grade, transcripts, or attendance. Parents should be allowed the flexibility to decide the appropriate educational model for their child. This should not be mandated either explicitly or implicitly through repercussions on grades, transcripts, or the ability to reflect an affiliation to the student’s assigned school. We parents do not want to be placed in a reactionary situation where we are forced to make vital decisions about the future of our children based on no options given. Accordingly, we ask that MPS & EPS explicitly involve a diverse parent panel in the decision-making process, even if it is just limited to the Presidents or representatives of the Parent Teacher Associations of the respective schools. Given that the parent pool in the Omaha & Elkhorn areas includes many parents with technological expertise, as well as well-respected educators, involving parents will benefit MPS & EPS. Further, we, the undersigned parents, remain ready to assist MPS & EPS, as needed for remote learning. We are hopeful that the Nebraska legislature will pass new laws to accommodate revised education strategies considering the current pandemic situation. We are confident that the Nebraska Education Board and the concerned School Districts will take this appeal into consideration and provide us with an alternative option for remote learning. — We, The Concerned Parents of Students from Millard Public Schools & Elkhorn Public Schools, Nebraska, advocate remote learning during the current COVID-19 pandemic.