Superintendent defends decision to reopen schools amongst a pandemic

Jeremiah Booth, In-depth Writer

On October 19, Omaha Public Schools opened back up for in-person learning with every grade level using the 3/2 model. Despite the positivity rate of the Coronavirus being over 14 percent in Douglas County, OPS superintendent, Dr. Cheryl Logan, defends her decision to reopen schools.  

Logan pleas for the community to “remain vigilant throughout the fall and into the winter, continuing to take necessary precautions to limit spread,” for a successful return.  

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) introduced a tool in June that allows viewers to recognize the COVID-19 risk status in each county. A color-coded state map displays four risk levels: exceedingly high, high, moderate, and low indicated in red, orange, yellow and green, respectively. When a county is shown in green, it does not mean the public should resume their pre-pandemic activities, the green color just indicates a lower comparative risk in this ongoing process. 

Douglas County is currently in a red status, meaning it is at exceedingly elevated risk of COVID-19 spread. Still, Logan stands behind her decision to open schools in-person regardless of these circumstances. According to Logan, almost 75 percent of high school students returned to school for in-person learning. 

“I feel like for some people it was necessary to go back,” says Danielle Abraham, 11, “but also I feel like it wasn’t the right move. My mom has some underlying health conditions, and it sucks always being on edge about getting sick.” 

Many students have publicly expressed how much more stressful virtual learning has been than in-person learning. It has also been stressful for parents, who must purchase more food, with their children being at home during school hours.  

Logan said that “students learn better in person and had been out of school for more than 180 days (about 6 months) at the time that we made the decision,” which was the biggest factor in the decision to open schools in-person again. One of the reasons for going remote was to “give the community an opportunity to reduce rates, that certainly was not happening. So, it made sense to work towards trying to have students back in person, albeit, at a reduced density inside of school.” 

The COVID-19 dashboard on the Omaha Public Schools website presents the number of diagnosed or active cases for staff and students and the number of isolated/quarantined staff and students on a weekly basis. 

For the week of October 23, there were 55 and 51 cases among students and staff, respectively, with the number of isolated people in each group being 636 and 245. The following week of October 30, the number of students with active cases went up to 73 and staff cases went down to 48. Quarantined staff also went down to 209 but for students the number leaped to 802. 

“Everything worries me. Everything,” says Logan. 

Not everyone is worried about their safety being in person though. Some students are worried more about missing out on things such as homecoming, prom, football games, and more which are big parts of high school.  

“Ideally, we can have a normal year, but we weren’t given the circumstances. It might suck but I’m not going to be afraid of something that no one can guarantee my safety from,” says Rachel Claire, 12.  

Many students are taking safety precautions, but that may not be enough. Logan wants the entire community to do so as well to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Students are required to wear a face covering at all times during the school day. Many have been doing so as well as frequently washing their hands and avoiding large groups of people. It is also suggested that these safety precautions be taken outside of school as well.