KEARNEY — The Kearney Public School Board is considering an “indefinite” school closure and is set to make that decision tonight at an emergency board meeting.
“This will allow us to be responsive to any changing conditions locally relative to the COVID-19 situation,” said KPS Superintendent Kent Edwards. Making the closure indefinite means the board will not have to continually hold emergency meetings to extend the closure.
As of this morning, three area cases — two in Buffalo County and the latest in Dawson County — of coronavirus have been confirmed by Two Rivers Public Health Department. Two University of Nebraska at Kearney students also are suspected of COVID-19 symptoms, but were considered “low-risk” by the health department and not officially tested. One UNK student is isolated on a floor at one of the residence halls and the other already had returned to his hometown.
KPS previously had decided to extend its spring break one week, starting early March 16. Under the original schedule, spring break was today through Friday, with students returning March 30.
In light of the constantly changing news, Edwards said it’s hard to say at what point school may be able to resume in its traditional format or when it may begin remote learning.
“Like everyone else in our state and community, conditions and unknown variables make it difficult to predict how long KPS will remain closed. Depending on those evolving conditions, those decisions may be made at the state level,” Edwards said. “If not, we will continue to evaluate on a week-by-week basis. Additionally, we continue to make plans for both a short-term and long-term scenario.”
The agenda for the emergency board meeting also includes setting up a “Grab and Go” lunch program and declaring a local emergency.
If approved, KPS will provide lunches at Bryant, Emerson and Central elementary schools beginning Wednesday.
Edwards said the program will be similar to the summer program. In that program, anyone under 18 may come to a designated school and get a free lunch on weekdays.
“This ‘Grab and Go’ program is very similar but with additional precautions to ensure safe distribution. Thus, the ‘Grab and Go’ method for distribution,” he explained.
The board also is set to declare a local emergency. Like Buffalo County and the city of Kearney’s declaration, a school district can declare an emergency to have more flexibility to address changes because of the unique circumstances it faces.
For those who would like to attend the meeting at 5:30 p.m., KPS has set up a Zoom meeting link: zoom.us/j/399320971.
This virtual meeting format follows Gov. Pete Ricketts’ March 16 guidelines that public gatherings and events should be limited to groups of 10 or fewer. The virtual meeting is allowed under Ricketts’ executive order permitting state and local governmental boards, commissions and other public bodies to meet by videoconference, teleconference or other electronic means through May 31.