Official: Nebraska schools must stay flexible with virus

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska’s education commissioner on Monday urged public schools to remain flexible for students and teachers as they resume classes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
    State Education Commissioner Matthew Blomstedt said his agency will continue to help schools as needed while maintaining its largely hands-off approach that lets individual schools decide how to proceed.
    In Nebraska, state education officials have released nonbinding public health guidelines for schools and worked with local districts to develop coronavirus plans. But they haven’t imposed statewide requirements to specify whether schools should mandate masks or in-person attendance. School policies have varied nationally as well.
    The result has been a patchwork of approaches throughout Nebraska, with some schools returning to in-class learning while others still provide online coursework.
    The latter has raised concerns among parents that their children are spending too much time in front of computer screens.
    “If something’s not working, we really encourage schools to adapt their plans based on what they ultimately think is best,” Blomstedt said at a briefing with Gov. Pete Ricketts.
    Blomstedt encouraged schools and teachers to stay flexible in how they manage classrooms to keep students engaged.
    He said schools should allow online students to have social time and break them up into smaller groups where they can interact more.
    In-person schooling is particularly important for children with disabilities because it allows them to interact socially with teachers and other students, said John Wybold, executive director of the Nebraska Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

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