August 2020
Managing Editor: Josh Sluiter
Greetings Omaha Public Schools Community,

As excited as we are to start the school year, we had so deeply hoped to see each of our students in-person. From the time we transitioned to online learning in March, we’ve been diligently planning for a safe, responsible, in-person return to school.

This past month brought heightened health concern and risk as virus numbers in our county increased, garnering concern from the Douglas County Health Department and even national attention from the Centers for Disease Control. Due to the current environment locally, our school district determined the Remote Learning Instructional Model is the safest way to begin the year.

You may remember that we adjusted the end of the 2019-20 school year calendar to allow for professional development days with our teachers. Combined with intensive curriculum planning, best practices learned from our virtual summer school program and additional professional development time this month, our current focus is on maximizing the potential of our 1-to-1 Technology Initiative to provide high-quality instruction for our students.

Health and safety and academic instruction comprise two of the three priorities we outlined as part of our planning for the 2020-21 school year. The third is our Ethic of Care. Our team of counselors, social workers and administrators will continue to partner with teachers and families for the well-being of our students. We know our students face uncertainty and anxiety right now. Virtual services and supports will be available.

In June, I was able to virtually venture into several of our online summer school classrooms. Our educators were confidently teaching in a new environment. Our students had quickly mastered their new technology. I watched as classmates engaged with one another and were clearly excited to learn. Seeing our community rise to this challenge made me deeply proud to be part of the Omaha Public Schools.

A successful start to this school year requires all of us. We are eagerly preparing for the time it is possible to return in-person learning. We will continue to monitor conditions and share regular updates. Until then, we are thoughtfully making our final preparations to welcome our students back-to-school virtually on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

We want to extend special thanks to our teachers, families and community for your support and for adapting to this transition with us. Your patience and flexibility are sincerely appreciated.

Cordially Yours,

Cheryl J. Logan, Ed.D.
Omaha Public Schools Start 2020-21 in the
100% Remote Learning Instructional Model
Omaha Public Schools encourages and inspires lifelong learners by demonstrating that same passion for learning in our teachers and staff. Professional development in the spring and summer, as well as virtual summer school, illustrated best practices for learning in our remote instructional model.

“Our 1 to 1 Technology Initiative, curriculum planning and professional development all focused on maximizing technology for at-home learning,” explained Bryan Dunne, director of information management services. “At-home learning for students will evolve significantly this fall when compared to the spring.”

Teachers and staff participated in more than 40 hours of remote education training, and our all-virtual summer school prepared them even more.

"I was impressed with the engagement tools teachers could use with students," said Rochelle Ramharter, a fifth grade teacher at Fontenelle Elementary who taught summer school. "We had the ability to share our screens, allow students to respond in multiple ways, facilitate activities to check for a student’s understanding and communicate with learners. Students were very excited to be back in a school setting, so they were very engaged with online learning. "

"One thing that really impressed us was the student engagement during summer school," said Jennifer LeClair, principal of Wakonda Elementary. "We immediately noticed the high level of participation and how closely students followed along."

Staff and students were miles apart during the school day, but the relationships they built didn't show it.

"It’s amazing how close you can become to students that you have never actually met in person," explained LeClair. "In summer school we worked with students from around the city, most of whom we had not met prior to the first day of class. When we ended school 20 days later, teachers were actually tearing up, thinking about not getting to see their students again. We built strong relationships with our kids and their families and saw academic gains in a short time, getting to know their likes, dislikes, personality and quirks. We loved it!"

"Creating peer connections is different than in person, but with small group instruction and sharing opportunities students were able to create those relationships with one another," continued Ramharter. "Many aspects were still the same in virtual learning. Students are receiving direct instruction. Students have the ability to complete independent work with assistance and guidance from teachers and they're working closely with their peers daily."

With the 2020-21 school year kicking off online on Aug. 18, family support is crucial to student success.

"Students should have all of their materials kept in their bags for easy access and have their iPad charged each night so it's ready to go each day," explained LeClair.

"Families can continue to support their learner by asking students what they are working on in class, sharing things they are learning and assisting them if needed," continued Ramharter. "I encourage families to be in communication with teachers and staff to ask questions, find support and create relationships to better assist their students. We are here to help our students and their families."

Through our planning these past few months, along with our 1 to 1 Technology Initiative, opportunities and expectations will be different this fall. Teachers will take attendance and give grades. Students will be expected to attend and participate in online learning every day.

Click the link above to watch a video outlining iPad deployment across our district.
Supporting Students in any Setting
The 2020-21 school year is going to look and feel different from any other. Health conditions call for a remote start to the 2020-21 school year for the safety of our staff and students, and that increases the need for mental and emotional support for our students.

“School is so much more than just a place where students come to learn academics,” explained Katie Hecht-Weber, school counseling supervisor for Omaha Public Schools. “School provides classroom communities, groups of friends and adults who genuinely care. We are committed to re-fostering this sense of belonging, community and safety as students return to school online.”

Preparing staff to actively support students in need of mental and emotional support is especially important during this time. Staff groups have joined professional development with a focus on social and emotional skill building, mental and behavioral health as well as personal safety.

"Social emotional learning will be imperative to the success of students this school year. Combating the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will require a systemic approach to supporting students’ social and emotional well-being," Hecht-Weber continued. "We have developed a remote learning plan for our school counseling program to ensure students can stay connected to their counselor and receive school
counseling curriculum while learning at-home." That includes daily "office hours" for students to reach out to their counselors for one-on-one or small group support.

"School counselors are committed to supporting students in any setting," said Hecht-Weber. "We believe a positive environment that supports students’ sense of belonging is key to student success. That is why we have created a multitude of ways to connect with students and families both in and out of the classroom. "

All students will receive regular check-in emails from their counselor that include a digital counselor request form. These request forms, along with emails and phone calls, can be used to access school counselors throughout the school day.

Outside of school hours, the OPS Safe Schools Hotline is available for students and families 24/7 at 531-299-SAFE.

"School counselors, like our fellow educators and community, want to see safe and healthy students who are thriving," said Hecht-Weber. "A very important aspect of our remote learning counseling plan is the innovation, dedication and genuine care that our school counseling team brings to implementing it for our students.

"Just as we have over these past months, we will continue to come together as a community of educators and support each other and our students."

CHI Health and Omaha Public Schools Partner to Honor Teachers Across the District

CHI Health wants nominations of Omaha Public Schools' teachers changing the lives of students. Each month, they'll surprise a Top Teacher nominee with a treat basket for the teachers' lounge and a personal gift card. CHI will draw winners on the last Friday of the month. CHI Health will select one winner at the elementary, middle and high school level.

Anyone can nominate a Top Teacher at

If you would like to view the latest CHI newsletter devoted to youth issues, please click here.

Thank you for your support of our teachers and for your support of the Omaha Public Schools.
... to North High graduate LJ McPhaull for earning the North High Teachers Award, the McMillian Magnet Scholarship and the Harley Alexander Collins Scholarship.

… to Central High graduate Kaitlyn Engel for being awarded the Fullerton PTA Resiliency Scholarship and the Donald & Mildred Othmer Scholarship.

… to North High graduate Moo Law Eh Shoe for receiving the Brian J. Slobotski Memorial Scholarship.

… to Central High graduate Arian Alai for earning the Frank Grobee Award Scholarship.

… to all McMillan Scholarship winners: Hanna Miller, Elannor Dunning, Jenna Arbuckle and LJ Mcphaull of North High, Om Kami of Central High and Paradise Sulavin of Benson High.

… to Daniel Varela Moreno of South High for being awarded the Nancy A. Fredericksen Scholarship.

… to Cale Christopherson of North High for receiving the Omaha North Faculty Scholarship.

… to fourth-year teacher Kelcey Schmitz of Benson High for earning the Leadership Development Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and Nebraska Language Arts Council. This award is presented to Language Arts/English teachers showing outstanding work in their first five years of teaching.
The following links will provide you with quick access to district sponsored events, procedures and resources. Please click on the categories under each title below, and you will be taken to the correct web page.
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Omaha Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), marital status, sexual orientation, disability, age, genetic information, gender identity, gender expression, citizenship status, veteran status, political affiliation or economic status in its programs, activities and employment and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following individual has been designated to accept allegations regarding non-discrimination policies: Superintendent of Schools, 3215 Cuming Street, Omaha, NE 68131 (531) 299-9822. The following persons have been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Director for the Office of Equity and Diversity, 3215 Cuming St, Omaha, NE 68131 (531) 299-0307.