OPS does not grade work over COVID-19 closure

Dominick Bartels, News Writer

On March 15th, 2020, Omaha Public Schools (OPS) announced school would be closed to slow the spread of the outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). This came after the federal government released social distancing guidelines of no more than 50 people should gather in one place. 

Since then, every school district in Nebraska has been closed by an executive order of the Governor for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year as the federal government has banned public gatherings of more than 10 people through April 30th. 

With schools closed, many students and parents are left wondering what the next steps will be. 

In an email to students, Melissa Comine, Chief Academic Officer for OPS, said, “The work completed during third quarter before our district closure will be used to determine second semester grades for the 2019-2020 school year.” 

However, Comine continued, “Because of such unprecedented circumstances, students may work with their classroom teacher to complete or redo work turned in before spring break to improve their final grade.” 

As far as state requirements go, the Nebraska Board of Education has waived state testing and hours in school requirements of Nebraska schools. 

“Education rules and regulations should be your last concern. You cannot make bad decisions right now if you are focused on the safety, well-being, and basic needs of your children and communities,” Matt Blomstedt, Commissioner of the Nebraska Board of Education said. 

All school districts, however, will be required to provide the state a plan of how they will continue learning during the closures. 

Lynne Smith, assistant principal at North High, said that teachers will be sending “enrichment activities once a week to all students,” through Office365. 

These activities will not be graded. 

In a survey of 134 North High students, 69% are not motivated to do their new schoolwork during the closure. Of those, a 42% plurality is not motivated because the work is not graded. 

One student responded, “[It isn’t graded], it doesn’t seem worth it.” 

Jeremy Maskel, communications director for OPS, said that teachers are expected to be checking their email or using another platform to “keep in touch with their classes.” 

According to data provided by North, 90.8 percent of North students have been issued a one to one device and should have access to school email. 

Despite this, about 15% of North students surveyed said that the program the district is putting forward is “unorganized” or they aren’t receiving the support they need to succeed. 

One student surveyed wrote, “I’m a hands-on learner, so without teachers I don’t feel motivated at all.”