The staggered schedules for Lincoln Public Schools high school students will end March 15 — after spring break — and all students will come back full time, Superintendent Steve Joel announced Tuesday.
That means high school students will either have to do full-time remote learning or return to school all five days, like elementary and middle school students have been doing all year. High school students who have been on staggered schedules can transition to remote learning full time if they don't want to come back every day.
High schools have run on staggered schedules since the beginning of the school year, with half of the students in school the first two days of the week, the other half the last two and the groups alternating Wednesdays.
District officials made that decision in an effort to reduce the population density in high schools, since they have by far the most students.
But the district has slowly reduced the number of students who use the staggered schedules, inviting seniors to return full time Feb. 1 and ninth graders Feb. 22.
That was voluntary, and less than half the students — 48% of all ninth graders and 37% of all seniors — chose to return full time, said Matt Larson, associate superintendent of instruction.
Some other students who were struggling academically have also come back full time.
Districtwide, 7,046 students are learning remotely exclusively, the lowest number since July. And since the end of first semester, 2,400 have returned to school, Larson said.
The highest percentage of remote learners — 24% — are in high school, Larson said. Officials said that will help reduce the number of students in school when staggered schedules end.
The fact that the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department’s risk dial has remained in yellow, or moderate risk, for three weeks is one of the reasons LPS officials decided to end the staggered schedules, officials said.
Another reason: Of the 455 high school students and staff tested during the week of Feb. 8, just two in different schools tested positive for COVID-19, LPS officials said, a 0.4% positivity rate, officials said.
Joel said officials will continue to monitor positivity rates, and if they increase, high schools could return to staggered schedules.
He noted that some teachers may be concerned, especially since they have not yet been vaccinated, but officials believe it will be safe.
“We’ve done a very, very good job of stair-stepping our way back (to full enrollment),” he said. “There’s not a compelling reason not to bring our students back, as long as we understand things can change.”
City officials have said they hope to begin vaccinating teachers close to spring break.
Five stories from the year a pandemic turned education upside down
Education in an upside-down year: Rough times for seniors
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Education in an upside-down year: Stepping away from school
Southeast Principal Brent Toalson’s heartbreaking -- but ultimately hopeful -- decision to retire rather than put his son at risk illustrated the hard decisions many educators faced.
Education in an upside-down year: Learning at home
When schools closed last spring, parents faced the herculean task of working from home, watching their young children and supervising remote learning.
Education in an upside-down year: Shortage of substitutes
As the pandemic wore on, teachers had to juggle new technology, in-person and remote learners -- a job that kept getting harder as a substitute shortage put more stress on teachers and threatened the ability of schools to stay open.
Education in an upside-down year: An outbreak
A fascinating look at a COVID-19 outbreak in an early childhood program that put teachers on edge and illustrated the challenges of tracking the virus.
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