June 2020
Managing Editor: Josh Sluiter
Greetings Omaha Public Schools Community:

We miss our students. By the time August arrives, it will be more than five months since we last learned together in person. A team of Omaha Public Schools staff members is actively planning for re-opening school this fall. We are engaging health experts, teachers, staff, families and community partners in our efforts.

As we prioritize health and safety, we strive to maximize in-person learning time for students and teachers, prior to an anticipated second round of coronavirus activity in early winter when flu season begins. We will soon recommend to our Board of Education that school begin for students one week earlier than originally planned. Pending Board approval, we would welcome students on Aug. 11. This timeline closely mirrors local school districts and area universities’ start of school year schedules. We will share the updated calendar in full, once it is approved and finalized.

Our 1-to-1 technology initiative is an important part of our planning effort, offering blended learning opportunities in the classroom and remote learning when needed. To protect students and staff when learning in person, the Centers for Disease Control, state education leaders and local public health officials recommend wearing masks upon our anticipated return to in-person instruction. Alongside enhanced sanitation practices and regular handwashing, we anticipate that district-provided masks for staff and students will be part of our comprehensive health and safety efforts to limit the spread of the virus. As we know more specifics, we will communicate them.

We appreciate families who completed our recent survey about remote learning and communications efforts. Your feedback will inform our efforts going forward. Soon, families of Omaha Public Schools students will receive an invitation to complete an additional survey about the upcoming school year. While learning routines and safety measures will be guided by health conditions and directives, your feedback will help us understand how to best support your student and family as we traverse this territory, together. We hope you will share that feedback with us.

Take care and be well.

Cordially Yours,

Cheryl J. Logan, Ed.D.
Omaha Virtual School Expands to K-12
Reid Huebert, first grade, watches a Facebook live field trip with the Three Oaks Alpaca Farm.
In a time of online learning, one school led virtual teaching in our state. Omaha Virtual School (OVS) is an online learning program designed to fit a child’s schedule and needs.

Starting in the 2020-21 school year, OVS will add 12th-grade classes, becoming a complete K-12 online and in-person blended program.

"I believe strongly that a school isn't about the building, it's about the students," said Wendy Loewenstein, the director of Omaha Virtual School. "Not every student prefers a traditional school environment, and our school offers another option for families to explore."

Students participating in the program are given a laptop for online learning at home at their own pace, assisted by a family member at home. They also experience in-person activities once a week, such as science labs or field trips.

Dr. Loewenstein continued, “Families get the support of our certified teachers and access to a great curriculum, but still get the opportunity to work at home with their children the majority of the time.”

“Our kids have been given so many opportunities this year through OVS,” explained Elissa Huebert, whose children are OVS students. “My boys love the robotics club, and my daughter always looks forward to art!”

First opened in the 2016-17 school year, OVS began as a K-8 program but has quickly grown in popularity, now supporting more than 200 students across Omaha.

“OVS is constantly trying to grow and adapt to meet the needs of the students and keep families involved.” Huebert said. “I feel like this is the best of both worlds - I get to have my kids home with me and help educate them myself, but I have the support of a whole school.”

Enrollment for the 2020-21 school year is open through August 19, 2020. For more information, please visit the OVS homepage or contact virtualschool@ops.org.
OPS Students Prepare for Summer Reading
Students at Castelar Elementary receive their books from the Superintendent’s Summer Reading Program
Summer may be starting, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning!

“Summer reading is critical for students to retain knowledge and skills learned in the previous school year,” explained Donna Dobson, the OPS director of elementary education. “Students who don't read are at risk of falling behind their classmates. Parents and teachers can avoid this by making sure kids take time to read.”

To ensure our students have the tools to continue their education this summer, OPS partnered with Scholastic for the Superintendent’s Summer Reading Program. This program provided books to more than 30,000 Omaha Public Schools students across our district.

“The goal of the program is to promote leisure reading throughout the summer to keep students engaged in literacy over the summer.” said Kanyuon Chism, OPS elementary coordinator for Curriculum and Instructional Support. “Each student in preschool through third grade received 10 books appropriate for their grade level, and each fourth through sixth grade student received five novels for their grade level.”

“When we began this program, we only purchased books for Kindergarten students.” Chism said. “Each subsequent year we have added additional grade levels of elementary students and this is the first year that all elementary students received books.”

Students are encouraged to log their reading time on the OPS Summer Reading webpage. The district goal is to have students combine to read over 2,000,000 minutes this summer.

“Last year our goal was 1,000,000 reading minutes across the district and our students blew that goal out of the water, so this year we doubled it.” Chism continued. “Independent reading is one of the greatest activities students can do to increase reading proficiency.”

“If you don't exercise, you lose muscle, and if you don't read, you will lose literacy skills.” Dobson explained. “Studies show that children who don't read over the summer lose at least two months of previous reading development.”

For more summer reading activities, please visit the OPS At Home Learning homepage.

Article by Julie Sigmon
Omaha STEM Ecosystem Director
Summer STEM Learning
As we forge a new normal by incorporating social distancing in our culture, I am inspired by how creatively our community is connecting with each other and offering support. Science is powering on to find a cure, technology fills in the distances between us, engineering repurposes factories for life-saving equipment manufacture, and mathematics forecasts when this will all be over. STEM professionals keep the country moving through changing norms, while educators, artists, and entrepreneurs are using digital networking and social media to reach their audiences now more than ever.

As a parent, one of the best things you can do for your child is to keep them engaged. Engagement is contagious. Look for STEM programs that combine fun, arts, technology and mathematics, while encouraging students to learn from failure and see the exciting rewards of math and science. There are numerous on-line family friendly activities and STEM programs.

Here are some of our favorite online resources:

Omaha Public Library Summer Reading Clubs -- with curbside pick-up!

4 Ways to Keep Your Children Engaged While You Work from Home -- UNO early childhood education professor Debora Basler Wisneski, Ph.D., shares her tips for keeping children active while parents work from home.

Do the Zoo at Home! There are lots of ways to stay connected with your favorite animal friends. Tune in each day on our social media channels for interactive video and activities you can do with your family.

DO Space presents: Make. Hack. Build. -- An experimental community program for creators ages 12-18 that combines state of the art tools, technology, skill development, and professional project design experiences.

Sign up with SciStarter to explore citizen science projects, science related activities and online learning resources from organizations such as Princeton University and National Geographic. Customize your own dashboard to save any links or projects that interest you.

Girls Who Code are making CS educational activities available for download free of charge, to anyone who wants to access them.

Bird Conservancy of the Rockies – Educational Programs in Nebraska -- Join their Facebook page to participate in daily nature challenges and share bird pictures! Check to see what events they have planned.

8 Fun Ways to Keep Math Learning Alive Over the Summer

Bill and Melinda gates K-12 Momentum
  • COVID-19 resources -- Link Here
  • Illustrative Math for learning math from home -- Link Here
  • Learning Keeps Going -- Link Here
  • Wide Open School -- Link Here
  • CommonLit reading program -- Link Here
  • For students transitioning from high school; College Advising Corps -- Link Here

For more resources, check out our website.
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 teacher's 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 CHIhealth.com/TopTeachers .

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 the graduating class of 2020 for striving through these unprecedented times. Your resilience and courage have not gone unnoticed. We can’t wait to see what you do next.

...to Central High graduate Emilio Haynes for his appointment to the United States Military Academy West Point.

...to Central High Social Studies Department Chair Gary Groff for his recognition and the University of Nebraska Omaha’s Outstanding Dual Enrollment Teacher of the Year.

…to Benson High for being selected to collaborate with the University of Nebraska Medical Center on their upcoming pharmacy technician program. Benson High students will have the opportunity to work toward their pharmacy technician certification utilizing UNMC’s curriculum and hands-on training labs.

…to the retiring Omaha Public Schools staff. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to our students, families and community. You will be missed, and we wish you the best in your new chapter. For a list of all retirees, Click Here.
Summer School Opportunities
For the health and safety of our students, staff and families, summer school opportunities must look different this year. All summer school instruction will be virtual, with technology and connectivity provided to eligible students. Summer school will begin on June 15 and last until July 14, with no sessions on either July 3 or 6. During this unprecedented time, eligibility for summer school may also be different than in previous years.

  • At the elementary and middle level, the focus will be reading, math and English/language arts.

  • At the high school level, the focus will be credit recovery primarily for current 12th-grade students. Based on availability, it is possible that some current 11th-grade students may be eligible. 
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.