LPS changing schedule due to staffing issues during COVID surge

"No we didn't anticipate this, we expected this to be a normal year," said LPS Superintendent Steve Joel. 

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Lincoln Public Schools has announced a schedule change for the next three weeks due to staffing issues caused by rising COVID-19 cases.

LPS has struggled to find substitute teachers to cover classrooms across the county. The district says some days 41 percent of classes couldn’t be covered by subs, so other staff filled in.

The district’s solution is “COVID Response Fridays” which will cancel school for the next three Fridays.

“Lincoln, our schools and our hospitals are in crisis,” said Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird.

“This is impacting Lincoln Public Schools in a way we have never been impacted before,” said LPS Superintendent Steve Joel.

The change was made to help with the staffing shortages in the district’s schools.

“I think they are tired. I think they are fatigued. Everybody has to dig deep down and say, you know we have to push through this. Our community needs us. Our students need us,” said Joel.

Superintendent Steve Joel says this isn’t a day off for teachers, instead it’s a day for them and students to catch up.

“In addition this will create an opportunity for students who are home due to illness, to receive additional support from teachers on those Fridays. This will allow staff to recoup valuable planning time that they have consistently been losing due to having to cover classes Monday through Thursday,” said Joel.

LPS has seen staffing shortages in every area, not just from teachers.

“We’re experiencing challenges at every position. Teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers, phycologists, transportation personnel, nutrition services, custodial, office support staff, administrators, campus security, and all of the other support services that help run a school safely and a district safely,” said Joel.

Having students stay home during the week causes stress for some families.

For instance, Jonalyn Sullivan told us on Facebook, “single parents and remote learning is not something that is possible for a lot of people. I’m just in a position where remote will not work at all and I will be out of work, then what?”

“No we didn’t anticipate this, we expected this to be a normal year,” said Joel.

Superintendent Joel says the decision to change the schedule was not easy but they needed to do what they can to keep students in school.

“No secret to anybody listening to this webinar, there are several thousand of schools that are closed across the country that have not been able to keep their schools open, we have. That of course means that we are going to have to address the kinds of things that we are addressing right now,” said Joel.

Superintendent Joel mentioned today they are working with the health department to get COVID tests on campus for school nurses to use.

There will also be teacher-led practice sessions over the next week to prepare students for remote learning if it becomes necessary.

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