Nebraska teachers union sounds the alarm, warns of shutdowns amid COVID-19 surge

The union stated Monday Gov. Ricketts needs to lay down tougher COVID-19 restrictions.
Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 8:45 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A Nebraska teachers union is sounding the alarm; warning schools will have shut down if COVID cases keep rising.

“We have to take action now, or our schools are going to have to close,” said Jenni Benson, President, Nebraska State Education Association.

The union said in a press conference Monday, Gov. Pete Ricketts needs to lay down tougher COVID-19 restrictions.

“It’s not helpful if we’re only wearing masks in schools,” said Maddie Fennell, Executive Director, NSEA. “And are out and about not wearing masks in other places.”

On behalf of the nearly 30,000 teachers they represent; a plea to the governor.

“The governor has to do this. the school boards don’t have the leverage in all of this,” said Fennell. The state board of education doesn’t. It’s the governor that has the leverage to do this across the state."

Meanwhile, the school districts 6 News spoke with said they’re just hanging on.

“We’re really are day-by-day right now,” Brandi Paul, Director of Communications & Engagement, Westside Community Schools, noting they’re confident they’re doing all they can in their schools but worried about what’s going on outside.

“We’ve had Plexiglas barriers up, we’ve reduced our numbers, we’re doing social distancing, however, they are getting it outside of our schools,” said Paul, noting it’s taking a toll on staff.

“If we don’t have teachers because they are quarantined, or because they’re at home because of precautions, because they have tested positive, how do we teach kids,” said Paul.

“Our administrators are out teaching, are out covering recesses, out covering lunch right now. We’re doing everything we can to be innovative and creative to keep our schools open.”

A statewide problem, the union said, needs a statewide solution to slow the spread.

“I’m afraid for my educators, for my friends, for my teachers, for my eight grandchildren,” said Benson. "We can’t do this anymore. It’s not sustainable

The NSEA is also calling on the State Board of Education to provide clear COVID-19 safety guidelines to every school district.

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