Masking the spread

Millard implements e-learning days with hopes of decreasing the spread of COVID-19 throughout the district


Cheryl Kramolisch

Completing her work on her first eLearning day on Friday Jan. 28th, senior Riley Kramolisch transfers her knowledge from in-person instruction to apply herself while at home. With two more remote days in the future Kramolisch begins productive habits while working at home. “ELearning days are a benefit to our health and our learning itself,” Kramolisch said. “I think it’s a good time for kids or teachers who are out sick to get caught up.”

Samantha Vojslavek, Feature Story Editor

Due to a drastic influx in positive COVID-19 cases, some public school districts across Nebraska, including Millard, have taken action and shortened their school weeks or provided set eLearning days due to the serious lack of staff members available to provide for schools. 

Millard Public Schools has applied three scheduled eLearning days for Friday, Jan. 28, Monday, Jan. 31 and Friday, Feb. 11. On Jan. 13, Millard Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Sutfin reported 186 absent staff members across all of Millard, and these numbers have experienced an increase since. These sub shortages have forced available teachers to give up their personal plan time to cover for others so no classrooms are left without an instructor. With intentions of providing their staff with much needed time to catch up on not only school work but also as a chance to get healthy, Millard hopes a few shortened weeks will slow the spread of illnesses while still continuing a learning environment for their students. 

“The expectations have been considerably higher for staff, and many teachers have lost plan time covering for other classes,” Principal Dr. Greg Tiemann said. “The purpose of the three days is to give staff planning opportunities that they are losing out on and to maintain the workforce. I think the days are going to help our weary staff, but personally, I always like to see students learning in the classroom. My hope in all this is that students do a good job in fulfilling their responsibilities and don’t put more work on the teachers when everyone comes back.”

Additionally, on Jan. 12, the Douglas County Health Department confirmed the implementation of a mask mandate for Omaha due to the steep incline of COVID cases in the state. 

Although the shortened in-person learning weeks will widely affect the district, one of the largest audiences that will have to adapt to the future are the students throughout Millard. Potential stressors such as facing additional deadlines, maintaining their usual workloads on top of remote assignments and simply missing the aspect of face to face contact become a temporary reality for every student. 

“I think the eLearning days are important because of the staffing issues and COVID case increases but I am concerned that asynchronous learning will put me behind in my classes,” senior Kaitlin Reynolds said. “I think these days are going to impact students significantly because once we return we are going to have to play catch up with in class instruction and possibly miss out on valuable activities that were originally planned due to less face to face contact.”

The remote days were planned strategically for teachers who are at home, recovering from COVID or taking care of family with this illness. Those still present and teaching everyday must adjust their lessons and assign separate activities students can complete online. 

“I worked with my Professional Learning Community to determine what material from our curriculum is appropriate for our students (Algebra 2 in my case) to learn remotely,” math teacher Brooke Hartnett said. “We will make adjustments to our pacing to meet the needs of our students and teach our curriculum. Learning remotely is clearly more difficult for students than learning in-person. Teachers work hard to create appropriate lessons for students to complete remotely. Hopefully, this helps slow the spread of COVID among our students. It also gives students or teachers who struggle with wearing masks a break from them.” 

Outside of the area, districts such as Beatrice, Hastings, Plymouth, Lincoln and Wahoo halted in-person learning for the remainder of past weeks, and Grand Island schools temporarily switched to four-day school weeks. Since the week of Jan. 16, these schools have begun to follow each other’s footsteps in acting to protect their citizens from the popular spread of COVID. 

In just a few weeks, Millard will return to five day in-person school weeks. Regardless of how the three eLearning days affect the district, Millard has not scheduled any further remote days for their students and staff, and will continue to take the necessary precautions while still holding the ability to learn in-person efficiently.