KEARNEY — Kearney Public Schools will be closed until March 29 in order to “flatten the COVID-19 curve.”
The district announced Sunday afternoon that the planned spring break would be extended a full week. All activities and sports practices are cancelled, and the Kearney Community Learning Center, which houses the district’s preschool, will not hold classes.
Zion Lutheran School and Grand Island, Hastings and Gibbon public schools also are extending their spring breaks. Amherst Public School sent a message to patrons Sunday afternoon that it was having classes this week.
Omaha Public Schools also made the decision to close March 16-20.
UNK announced Thursday it will hold classes the week before spring break and then suspend in-person classes after the end of the scheduled break.
KPS’s decision was influenced by “the desire to flatten the COVID-19 curve and not overwhelm our medical community,” and the United States’ expansion of the travel ban, which Saturday now includes the United Kingdom and Ireland, which previously were excluded from the European travel ban.
The district is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that requires “social distancing” and separation of large groups of people.
According to Matthew McQueen, director of the public health program and associate professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, “flattening the curve” is an effort to spread out the anticipated cases of COVID-19 throughout a longer period of time, rather than let a surge of cases erupt at once. “Flattening the curve” gives health infrastructure and public health agencies more time to respond to the crisis and reduce the number of deaths.
Anywhere from 20 percent to 60 percent of the adults around the world may be infected with the virus, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“We view our regular school day as something that would constitute a large gathering,” the KPS statement read. “We also see this extended break as an opportunity to thoroughly clean and disinfect our buildings and our facilities team will work diligently to make sure we have cleaned all areas appropriately ... Our top priority is the safety of our students, staff and, in this case, the greater community and we hope these efforts will serve our community health in a productive way.”
KPS’s statement emphasized that there has not yet been a confirmed case of COVID-19 in Buffalo, Hall or Adams counties.