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WPS Superintendent Brandon Lavaley

Letters from WPS Superintendent provide regular COVID updates in District

August 26 letter highlights isolation, exposure, and quarantine policies in place for 2021-2022

August 26, 2021

Dear Wahoo Public Families,

We are excited to have students and staff back in our buildings and ready for the 2021-22 school year. Through the first few days of school, it appears everyone has settled into routines and the days go as well as could be expected. Unfortunately, the continued presence of COVID-19 will impact our school year, though it is impossible to predict to what degree. Below are some of the steps that are currently in place for the school year:

  • Isolate - Any individual testing positive for COVID-19 must stay home for 10 days from symptom onset or the positive test, whichever occurs first.
  • School Exposure - The school will send a letter to families of those potentially exposed to a positive case so families can monitor individuals for symptoms. Exposed individuals will still be able to attend school and it is recommended a face covering is utilized, unless symptoms develop. Upon symptom development, the ill student should remain at home. For a classroom with more than one positive case, face coverings may be required.
  • Quarantine - When there is documented transmission of multiple cases in a classroom or core group within a short period of time, the district may send a letter to close contacts to highly recommend they stay home or close a classroom completely for a period of time.

Our goal, much as it was last year, is to keep as many people in our buildings for education as long as possible. This only happens if we are able to work together to mitigate risks and transmissions. If your child is ill, please keep them home.

While these plans are in place today, there is always a chance they alter during the school year based on conditions. While we continue to keep a watchful eye on the safety of our students and staff, we appreciate  your patience and understanding and hope your families have a great school year.

Sincerely,

Brandon Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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May 7, 2021

Good afternoon and thank you! Thank you for supporting your student(s), the school staff, and the district during this unprecedented year. This has been a year like no one could have predicted or planned to navigate, but we are nearing the end and we have maintained having our doors open for the entire year.

We are making a slight change to our expectations of students and staff for the last weeks of school and wanted to communicate that with all parents and patrons. A new Directed Health Measure (DHM) was released by the State of Nebraska this week, signed off by the state health director. Within the DHM, there is a new provision for school-aged children when it comes to quarantine due to a positive COVID-19 exposure. Previously, the DHM dictated that any positive exposure required a quarantine period away from all others. The new DHM allows for a “mask-in-lieu of quarantine” for school-aged children due to a positive exposure. In such a case, a student would be required to be masked at all times and monitor for COVID symptoms, but would be allowed to continue attending classes.

As a result of this change in the DHM, the district will be making a slight modification to the mask expectation for the rest of the school year amongst students and staff. In staying with our past practices of honoring the DHM and adhering to those guidelines, masks will be optional in all buildings beginning on Monday, May 10. Any individual may choose to wear a mask, but they will not be mandatory on everyone in attendance, unless necessary due to a positive exposure.

As a side note, masks will still be required for those attending the graduation ceremony this weekend. The change in the DHM applies only to school-aged children, so the use of masks will be expected during the ceremony for those in the audience.

We appreciate all of the patience and flexibility we have observed this year when it comes to the decisions that must be made for students and staff in our district. We feel everyone involved should be commended for their part in making this a successful school year. Also, understand that if an updated DHM is released requiring us to change our procedures between now and the end of the school year, a communication will be shared with you. Please feel free to reach out with any questions you might have.

Sincerely,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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December 9, 2020

In a year full of changes and flux, I present another COVID-related communication, this time regarding the school calendar. Wahoo Public Schools will have some slight changes to the school calendar that will impact student days in December, February, March, and April. Those changes are as follows:

1. In December, the end of the semester will look differently than originally planned. In the elementary and middle schools, the staff will utilize Monday, December 21 as a day to invite specific students into the building to work on curriculum that they may have missed or are behind. Personal contact will be made with families to communicate the expectation of students attending on that day. If a contact is not made, the student will not be expected to report. In the high school, the finals schedule will be condensed into Friday, December 18 and Monday, December 21. On Tuesday, December 22, across the district, no students will be expected to attend, and staff will have a professional day.

2. In the second semester, it was originally scheduled to have early dismissals on Wednesdays, February 10, March 10, and April 14. Those will now be full-day professional time for staff across the district. Students will not report on those three days during the second semester. While we continue to strive for in-person instruction, we have students that must isolate/quarantine due to COVID-19. As such, teachers are working with students in two different environments to provide a quality education. This requires more time and planning, which is what those Wednesdays will help to provide.

As I have mentioned so many times, this is a year unlike any other. The ability to be flexible and understanding is of great benefit as we continually see changes in guidance and the current reality. A heartfelt thank you is extended for continuing to support your student(s) and the district as we do our best to educate students and inspire them to thrive. Have a great week and a happy holiday season!

Sincerely,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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December 8, 2020

Happy Tuesday Warriors!

In continuing with COVID-related updates, there has been a change in the recommended quarantine timelines and procedures for high-risk, close contact exposures. I have done my best to articulate in the following paragraph.

Wahoo Public Schools will be changing the protocols regarding return from quarantine, similar to those recently released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We make these decisions/changes to keep protocols as consistent as possible and aligned with guidance from Three Rivers Health Department. Going forward, any staff or student considered to have a high-risk, close contact (inside of six feet for 15 minutes or more without both parties wearing masks) will be required to quarantine for 10 days (changed from 14 days). If, after 10 days, the individual continues to be asymptomatic from the time of exposure, he/she may return to school. However, the individual will be required to wear a mask at all times through the 14 days post exposure, including during recess, activities, practices, and competitions. In the case of a household exposure, an individual must commit to a 10-day isolation period followed by a 10-day quarantine (changed from 14 days). With those individuals recently entering into a quarantine period, a district representative will be contacting families with an alternate return date, if necessary.

However, the district will not be pursuing the option of "testing out" of quarantine at this time. In accommodating the lowered number of quarantine days, we feel this is the best route for providing a safe environment for staff and students. Abiding by the 10-day quarantine period also keeps a clean, clear date of return that can be communicated and understood by all involved. We appreciate your patience and understanding as this pandemic continues to evolve and guidance is updated. As we continue through the second semester of the school year, we will be updating you with further changes as they are determined by health officials.

Sincerely,


Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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November 18, 2020

Greetings, Warriors!

Just as we have done previously, this is another update about how COVID-19 is impacting our district, community, and school year. Recently, the Governor announced further restrictions regarding gathering sizes, places of business, and other entities in our community. Regarding schools, his goal is to help keep them open and accessible to students as long as possible. As we have state previously, we want to maintain that same consistency for our students and families as long as it is safe to do so.

In Nebraska, positive COVID-19 cases are quickly rising, as are the number of hospitalizations associated with the illness. At Wahoo Public Schools, since the beginning of the school year, we have seen 36 positive tests among our students and staff. Additionally, at the time of this letter, there are 40 students and staff members that are excluded from school due to a positive test or potential exposure. Given the number of people in our buildings on a daily basis, that number is remarkably low considering what we observe at the state level. At this time, our plan is to continue with face-to-face instruction.

However, in the interest of transparency and planning, I would like to share some of the considerations being made by the administration if the time comes that we must utilize some alternative environments for education. The rationale for sharing now is for families to have contingency plans if we must alter our methods of delivery due to new Directed Health Measures, guidance from Three Rivers Health Department, and/or local observations in the best interest of safety. More than likely, there will not be weeks of lead-in time to prepare for a change, much like we saw in March. As a district, we only ask for patience and understanding if we do have to make any changes. Those decisions are made with much thought and consideration as to how it will impact the children and families of the district.

Some of the alternative solutions being considered by the district include:

1) A hybrid model with ~50% attendance. That could be accomplished by limiting class sizes to half on a given day or by moving the middle/high school to a remote setting and spreading the elementary classes across the elementary and extra space in the middle/high school.

2) A remote learning environment, much as we did in the spring, with clear expectations and standards for continued learning and grading of student work.

3) A four-day school week, giving the staff at Wahoo Public an additional day to plan, assess, and provide feedback to the students they are working with in multiple environments simultaneously.

It is the intention of the district to continue providing face-to-face instruction to students, while keeping all in our buildings safe during this pandemic. The more often preventative measures are reinforced at home (masks, hygiene, limiting exposure to large groups, etc.), the longer we will be able to continue with our current method of education; however, if a change must be made, it will probably be communicated with little notice. We thank all of our students and parents for their patience and support during this school year. Additionally, staff have done an outstanding job of accepting the situation and creating the best possible experiences for our students. I hope each of you finds time to enjoy the holidays safely, and please reach out with any questions you might have.

Sincerely,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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November 5, 2020

Parents and Staff,

Today 29 public and private schools met with Three Rivers Public Health Department and Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department to discuss schools’ protocols that follow the Risk Dial.

The Risk Dial, used by Three Rivers and Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Departments, uses eight data points on a three-week rolling average. The Risk Dial is broken into four colors associated with the level of risk. The Low (Green) level of risk is 0-0.5, the Moderate (Yellow) level of risk is 0.5-2, the High (Orange) level of risk is 2-3.5 and the Severe (Red) level of risk is 3.5-4.

Each of these 29 public and private schools have created their own protocols associated with the level of risk identified weekly by the dial. Until this point, schools have had plans to transition from in-class learning to a hybrid or fully remote model in the Orange and Red levels. Today, in accordance with guidance from Three Rivers and Elkhorn Logan Valley Health Departments, schools are announcing they will plan to keep students in class as much and for as long as possible.

“We have learned a lot in the past three months and because of the terrific work our schools are doing have found that keeping students in school is the safest place for them to be. School staff and students are wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing on a frequent basis. Because of all of these efforts we have found very little transmission of COVID-19 among students and staff members within our schools,” stated Terra Uhing, Executive Director of Three Rivers Public Health Department.

“The Risk Dial serves as a visual data review tool within each county to provide an insight into the spread of the virus,” stated Gina Uhing, Health Director for Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department. “For school districts, the number of cases within a school building or classroom serves as an indicator for how well the protocols in place are working and if adjustments are needed within the school environment.” 

To date, schools that have had to temporarily move to virtual learning were closely related to the ability to find substitutes while individuals were required to quarantine.

Areas that were discussed include:

  1. Academics
  2. Lunch/Breakfast - Social Distancing
  3. Transportation - Social Distancing
  4. Visitors to School
  5. Athletics
  6. Fine/Performing Arts Concerts/Productions
  7. Elementary Music Concerts
  8. School Support Organizations Meetings
  9. Outside Group Use
  10. Youth Feeder Programs

In all of the areas above, the plan for Wahoo Public Schools is being adjusted to reflect the guidance provided by the Public Health Officials today. For the most part, the protocol previously outlined in the Orange section of the plan will also be utilized when in the Red designation with all protocol based on direction and guidance from Three Rivers Public Health. Wahoo Public Schools must also adhere to all Directed Health Measures from the State.

It is the goal of all of the entities that met today to provide a safe learning environment for our students, staff and community. These are challenging times. We have learned that in order to keep our students and staff safe while minimizing community spread, wearing masks, social distancing and keeping them in school is a huge step in this endeavor.

Thank you,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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October 16, 2020

Hello and Happy Friday, Warriors! As we have done in the past, we want to provide semi-regular updates to the happenings in the district as it pertains to COVID-19 and our protocols. At his press conference today, the Governor announced that he would be reigning back on some of the indoor capacities in public spaces for the next six weeks. The scaled-back number is 50%, similar to what was practiced during Phase III of the statewide response to COVID-19.

Because we did not deviate from those protocols we had in place during Phase III, we will not be adjusting any of our practices, in school or activities, at this time. We want to reinforce the importance of wearing masks, social distancing, and appropriate hygiene at all times. While the inconvenience is recognized, the masks continue to work as evidenced by the zero confirmed cases of COVID as a result of interactions in our school buildings.

Within the district, we had a spike in quarantines and positive cases of COVID-19 about two weeks ago; however, with some slight adjustments in our procedures, we have the lowest number of quarantines in the high school that we have had since the first day of school. Since the beginning of the school year, we have had 27 total positive cases among students at all grade levels and staff at Wahoo Public. While that number may seem slightly high, we feel very confident in our ability to keep students and staff safe in our buildings, as shown by none of those cases being tracked back to an exposure in school.

The start of this school year has been unlike any we have experienced before. It has created some stress and anxiety of the unknown, but I am supremely proud of the students and staff at Wahoo Public Schools. We have protocols in place to keep people safe and they are being followed on a regular basis, making sure we are able to keep students and staff in school. We also appreciate the attention to safety observed by families outside of school, further solidifying our students’ opportunities at face-to-face education and activities. While this school year is anything but normal, the more “normal” experiences we can provide, the less stressful the school year will be. Thank you to all the parents for your understanding of our expectations and continuing to reinforce those outside of school. Have a great weekend and Go Warriors!

Sincerely,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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September 18, 2020

Good Friday Afternoon to all Wahoo Warriors. 

As we have done in the past, we want to provide semi-regular updates to the happenings in the district as it pertains to COVID-19 and our protocols. We recognize that the Governor has relaxed precautionary efforts further under Phase IV of reopening across the state.

However, in evaluating our situation in Saunders County and within Wahoo Public Schools, we are electing to maintain our current protocols and procedures. According to Three Rivers Health Department, we have seen a significant uptick in the number of positive cases registered in Saunders County. The increase is to the point that it moves the risk dial back into the orange, which is one of the factors we use to determine operation of our schools. Within the boundaries of our district, we have also seen an increase of positive tests among residents.

The good news about the situation is we have not seen any cases of school spread within our buildings. We continue to see fairly consistent numbers of students/staff that are positive, which have been very minimal, and those that have to be quarantined as a result of a high-risk exposure with a positive case, generally outside of school. 

The practices that we have in place are proving effective at minimizing risk. Our ultimate goals are to keep our students and staff members safe and in a face-to-face learning environment. We believe that is the best instructional method for our students. As such, we will continue to utilize masks as often as possible on campus for all students, staff, and visitors. Please continue to be vigilant about good personal hygiene, wear masks, and avoid contact with others if you are symptomatic or awaiting the results of a pending COVID test. These methods have worked well within our walls and have the ability to work when people are not on campus, as well.

We appreciate all of the efforts and sacrifices that have been made thus far in the school year and feel it is off to a great start. As stated before, we want to keep our students and staff members in a face-to-face environment for all school-related opportunities, which will require a concerted effort on the part of everyone receiving this letter. Thank you for your understanding and flexibility, and have a great weekend!

Sincerely,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

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September 4, 2020

Hello to all Wahoo parents, patrons, students, and staff. 

In an effort to keep everyone informed and represent transparency on behalf of the school district, I would like to provide you with another update about happenings at school from the past week. We had two individuals in the middle school, one student and one staff member, present positive COVID test results this week. We were again able to minimize the impact on those around the individuals, through the use of masks and social distancing, and limit the number of others who had to quarantine as a result. When it comes to the protocols and procedures we have in place, those are local decisions made by the school district. When considering isolations, quarantines and timelines, those are directives handed down by Three Rivers Health Department that we must follow. We do not have the ability to negotiate or make our own decisions when it comes to isolations, quarantines, and/or the timelines associated.

We understand that the Health Department has now placed Saunders County in “orange” on the risk dial. As was shared previously, our return-to-learn document is guidance for how we will address education throughout the year. The risk dial is one of the factors we consider, but not the final call as to what type of attendance or remote learning we will be conducting as a district. At this time, we will continue operating as we have been, with continued safety measures and precautions in place. Should that change, you will receive a message directly from the district regarding any variance from our current course.

In addition to the measures taken during the school day, we are now requiring the use of masks at our extra-curricular activities for all attendees. Three Rivers is giving “credit” for the use of masks in terms of being more lenient with those potentially impacted by a positive exposure. Our ultimate goal is to keep as many students and staff members in school as possible, and keep the doors to our buildings open for the educational process. The use of masks, even by parents and spectators at events, helps ensure that we can continue to operate with students in attendance for live instruction.

Finally, if your child is ill, please keep them home. If your child is exhibiting any COVID-related symptoms, please keep them home. If your child has a pending COVID test, please keep them home. While we recognize the inconvenience it creates for the family and the continuity of education for the child, it keeps everyone at school safe and our buildings accessible. I hope this helps clear some of the misinformation, though if you have further questions, I am always available to help.  We appreciate the support and understanding of everyone as a member of our school district, and remember, it’s always a great day to be a Warrior!

Sincerely,

Brandon J. Lavaley, Superintendent
Wahoo Public Schools

Letters from WPS Superintendent provide regular COVID updates in District

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