February 5, 2021: Naming a School

Don gets a pandemic update from Superintendent Steve Joel. Also, Don talks with Lincoln Board of Education Chair Kathy Danek to learn about the process used to name new schools and how you can participate. 

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Join us for our next “LPS Board Update” on Friday, Jan. 8 at noon. You will be able to find it on the LPS website, the LPS Facebook page, and the LPS YouTube Channel.

Video Transcript

Don Mayhew 0:18
Hi, I’m Don Mayhew, one of your Lincoln Board of Education members.

Mindy Burbach 0:22
And I’m Mindy Burbach, communications director for Lincoln Public Schools. Welcome to LPS Board Update. This show is an opportunity for us to learn more about what is happening around Lincoln Public Schools and for you, our community, to ask questions. Don, we have several different topics we’re covering today,

Don Mayhew 0:38
We do. Coming up first, we’re going to talk about how the community can get involved in naming our new schools. But first, let’s touch base with LPS Superintendent Steve Joel and get the latest pandemic update. Alright, Steve, there have been a lot of questions about COVID vaccines and when our LPS staff would to be able to receive them? What do we know so far about the timeline for our staff getting the vaccines?

Steve Joel 1:01
Well, what we know is that we’re in that Tier 1B. And today as we’re, we’re talking, the they have just finished up with I think the police, police force and you know, there’s still a couple of groups ahead of us, they’re starting the over-80s on Friday, and then it’s just gonna be a matter of, you know, how many doses do they have available, you know, we were gonna have probably 7000, maybe a little bit more of our staff members that have signed up to, indicated that they will take the vaccine, so it’s going to be a numbers game. And and, you know, the health department talks to us weekly about, they’re doing everything they can to try to attract more doses. And, you know, I understand teachers are concerned because, you know, teachers in Florida, teachers in other states have already been vaccinated, other parts of the state of Nebraska have been vaccinated, and why not us? But you know, it’s coming and as soon as we know, we’ll, we’ll get with our staff members, you know, we’re working with the Health Department on how to best distribute that. And it could very well be something as you know, we got 300 doses left over on Friday, can you get 300? People? I mean, we were going to try to avoid that if at all possible, because we’d like to do it in large chunks. But it’s, it’s really unclear. And, you know, we just need to, for them to get the number of doses and give us the green light. And we’ll we’ll figure out a distribution system.

Don Mayhew 2:25
Well, let’s talk about that for a second. Because for months, for the better part of the year, we’ve been telling teachers that they need to be in the classroom with our kids. They, you know, they’ve been identified as essential workers, they’ve been on the frontlines, and one of the things that that was predicated on was the fact that we’d be rolling out the vaccines, as soon as humanly possible. It does seem like there have been some slowdowns and delays. From your perspective, what is the holdup in getting our teachers vaccinated?

Steve Joel 2:53
I think it’s the fact that there aren’t enough doses. And and I, you know, I mean, they were, they were they were supposed to start, you remember, they were gonna start right after Christmas. And, of course, that was delayed. And so you know, you start stacking these delays up. The Governor apparently has been trying to acquire more vaccine and has not been successful in doing that. And we, it that’s it. I mean, you know, we ask the same question weekly. And they essentially tell us, we just don’t have the number of doses. So it’s a distribution, it’s federal distribution, in terms of getting them out to the States. But then, you know, inquiring minds want to know, so why, why why does Florida have more doses or seem to have more doses than Nebraska or Arizona or Colorado? So I know, it’s confusing, and I know, it’s stressful. And you know, we want to bring more kids back to school. But we want to do it in a in a strategic way that, you know, really flows off of teachers having vaccines, because I think that’s going to create comfort levels.

Don Mayhew 3:49
From our perspective as soon as we get the the doses, we’re getting them rolled out. Talk to me a minute, you mentioned the health department. How are we working with them to get those vaccines distributed?

Steve Joel 3:59
Yeah, well, we were in we’re in planning phase with them right now. And we’re trying to find the best logistical way, when we get the call that there’s 1000 vaccines, you know, who gets the vaccine, so we’re working on that. That’s going to be a few weeks off before we get that call. I know, Dr. Weber has been looking at a lot of different scenarios. You know, we’ve toyed with the, you know, the oldest first and underlying health, but you know, it’s really going to be a little bit more pinpointed than that, you know, it might be by school might be by level, you know, we’ll work with with with them, but, you know, I fear because Grand Island just went through this, you know, you get the phone call to three hours before saying we got 300 doses. We don’t want them to go to waste, you know, can you find us 300 staff members, that’s going to be difficult. So that’s kind of where we are. They’ve been great to work with, you know, once a week we talked to them for an hour and, you know, they understand the concern, they’re getting emails from from teachers wanting to know why have we not been vaccinated, so you know, sure, kind of a frustrating time, but we’ll get there.

Don Mayhew 5:01
What about vaccines for students? What do we know about that?

Steve Joel 5:04
I think what we might see is this summer, perhaps high school kids 16 and over might be eligible. At least that’s kind of what we’re hearing. But it’s going to be a while before elementary students and up to middle school students get vaccinated, which means, and I almost dread saying this, because we’re getting a lot of emails about take take masks off kids, you know, we’re in green, as a state. I I just don’t envision us not having masks on when we come back, because the virus is still going to be around, because we won’t have herd immunity and students will have not been inoculated. So yeah, it’s just you know, people want to wake up tomorrow morning, Don. They just wanted to declare this over. And, you know, that’s just not going to be the case for a while.

Don Mayhew 5:47
So you mentioned that, let’s drill down into that a little bit. Once we get our staff and students vaccinated. What are the changes going to be to our COVID protocol’s?

Steve Joel 5:55
Well, once we get, you know, we’re doing some testing next week with Department of Health and Human Services, or public health on each one of our high schools, we’re going to have volunteers. Dr. Rauner, your colleague and you know, really a public health specialist is, has indicated that, you know, before we open up our schools to more kids, what we need to do is make sure that we’re not having the asymptomatic spread that public health people fear, and that testing will give us that information. So I think once you know, that happens, we start the vaccination process, we want to bring more of our students back, you know, we just invited seniors back this week, Monday. Disappointed by the number of seniors that took us up on it. But you know, we also have been told again, anecdotally that suddenly these seniors have really written off their senior year, right, they’re doing what they have to do to get done, graduate, they’ve begun to move on and, and there’s probably a small percentage of them or maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a large percentage of them that really like the two days at home and three days in school, and you know, they do zoom in their pajamas, and that’s pretty, pretty comfortable for them. So we might be looking at another grade level as we get the data from the testing and the vaccines in terms of the teachers. And we want to get that announced as quickly as possible. Parents are really getting frustrated. They want their kids off remotes their back into in-person.

Don Mayhew 7:17
Virtually since the beginning, Dr. Rauner and many other health care professionals have been talking about the need for more testing. We announced this week we’re working with test Nebraska and the health department on a pilot program to offer free COVID testing at our six high schools next week. Why are we interested in participating in this in this pilot project? And what are we hoping to learn from it?

Steve Joel 7:38
I think there’s two two major reasons. One, it is when we test we get a better handle of asymptomatic spread, right, which is the spread that can occur from somebody with zero symptoms. And I think we all probably know somebody that found out they had antibodies to it and never never had so much as a sniffle. We need to find that out. And I think secondly, it creates another level of comfort for our staff, if in fact they know so we don’t know what that percentage is. They did something similar in Omaha, they had very low numbers of asymptomatic, same thing in Millard. Millard did students and staff. So we’re looking for that is just one more data point. Bob, Dr. Rauner’s a very data oriented individual and, and I know him personally before he gives the all clear on bring more kids in, let’s make sure and that’s what this is going to give us. I want to encourage parents to sign their students up, they’ll get results in 72 hours, it’s not going to represent any change in the way we operate. It’s just going to give us with the right data give us a chance to bring more of our kids back in school

Don Mayhew 8:46
Is it something we might do again?

Steve Joel 8:49
Well, I know Dr. Rauner would like t. I mean, test Nebraska has basically said we’re going to do one round. But you know what Bob would like to see is okay, let’s do one round now. And let’s come back in a month. And let’s kind of see if the numbers change. I don’t know how likely that is. But we’re we feel very fortunate that Test Nebraska and Department of Health and Human Services have asked us if we’d be interested in doing this. So we said yes.

Don Mayhew 9:12
Fantastic. All right. As always, Dr. Joel, thank you so much for your work for our kids. And thanks for joining us today with this update. Appreciate it.

Steve Joel 9:19
Appreciate it Take care.

Don Mayhew 9:21
Approximately a year ago on February 11, Lincoln voters passed a $290 million bond resolution by 62%, which includes building two new high schools and a new elementary school. The community has been involved in every step of this process, including giving input as part of the High School Task Force and the Superintendent facility Advisory Committee. Selecting names for the new schools is no different. Joining us to share more about how the community can get involved is Lincoln Board of Education chair Kathy Danek. Kathy, welcome, and thanks for joining us.

Kathy Danek 9:55
Thanks for having me, Don. I’m glad to be here.

Don Mayhew 9:58
Kathy, it’s probably the question we get the most. What are the names for the new high schools? You’ve been through this process before and we actually have a policy that guides how we name new high schools. What’s the overall process?

Kathy Danek 10:09
Well, first, we don’t have new names yet. We’re getting to that. The overall process starts when the board appoints committees. We’ve set up three committees, one for each school, and every board member’s involved in the process. There’s a chair for each committee selected from the board. The committee is made up of board members and community members, and the community is invited to submit names to the committee. We have 20 days to solicit name suggestions from the community. The committees review the names, research them, and we have great conversation debates on the names before making a final recommendation to the board for approval. Each committee will recommend one name. We hope to complete the process in late spring before school is out.

Don Mayhew 10:57
So the folks that are on those committees, Kathy, how are they selected?

Kathy Danek 11:02
It started with as Board Chair, I sent out a note to my colleagues saying I need to send them three names, we have three committees three names. But it goes a little beyond that. We also have people volunteer. So we have several community members that volunteered. And then I had the dubious task of dividing it into the three areas of the city. Because we have three very diverse areas, getting new schools. One of the things I looked for was I wanted to make sure that the committee reflected the diversity of our community, and the diversity of our schools. So we should have people from the African American community, from the Hispanic community, we should have people from the Native American community. And we were really, really positive making sure that that representation is fair.

Don Mayhew 11:55
So we’re in the process. We’re at the beginning of the process right now where the community can give us their suggestions. If somebody has the perfect idea for a name for one of the new schools, how do they submit those ideas?

Kathy Danek 12:08
That, that’s going to be part of our work with Mindy. On February 8, we’re going to have the name submission website go live on lps.org. On there, our community can find information about the schools. And there will be a form that they can complete suggesting a name for each school. They can submit a name for one, two, or all three. The deadline cuts off at February 28. And just in case, people want to know, we have this handy dandy book of how the schools were named. I know the committees all got those. So if they would send us a little background information when they submita name that would help us know what those people did. I actually went to our policy, because one of the really important things is how do we decide what you did so the community can submit individuals, living or dead, who have contributed to education in the Lincoln community, neighborhoods where the facility may be located, shall also be considered by the committee. I think that’s how we got our direction names for our high schools.

Don Mayhew 13:19
Having… uh, I served on both of the high school committees, and I can tell you there is so much energy and people are having so much fun. And one of the neat things having worked on past naming past schools, is when people come from the community and they’ve got an idea for an for a name, and they’ve got a story to back it up. And what a great opportunity to hear some wonderful stories about people in our community. So that part is really neat. Mindy, we have some virtual activities planned as we are collecting suggestions, what are some of those?

Mindy Burbach 13:49
Yeah, you know, in the age of COVID, we really learned how to utilize our virtual tools. And so we have two forums that will be done over the zoom format, where Scott Wieskamp and Liz Standish will give us a preview of some of the design work that they’ve been doing. And the community can ask questions about those schools. Those will both be at noon on Tuesday, February 16. And Thursday, February 18. You can find them on our website lps.org, or on our LPS Facebook page, it will be live. But again, one of the great things about this technology is it’ll be recorded. And so if you can’t watch it live at noon, you can go back and watch it at any time that works best for you. We’re also meeting with other community groups, we have some meetings set up, for example with the community group up in the Air Park area. So if you have a community group that you would like us to come and present and give some information, you’re welcome to contact us here at Lincoln Public Schools. You can contact us on our website on the blue button, the Contact Us link, we’d be happy to set that up as well.

Don Mayhew 14:47
Kathy, you’ve been on the board for a long time. You’ve done this many times before, in your opinion, what makes a good school name.

Kathy Danek 14:55
I really like having someone linked to our community but especially To our teaching or administrative contributions to our district. I’ll give a couple good examples. The Adams elementary was named for Colonel Paul Adams. And he was alive at the time. I think he’s still alive. And he goes and visits the school. And he was a Tuskegee Airmen before he was a teacher at Lincoln High for the thrill of students getting to meet the person that their school is named for my grandkids go to Kooser. And they’ve, they’ve actually heard Ted Kooser read poetry to them. These are things that kids never forget. And they get those pictures. I think I went into Ruth Hill Elementary a couple weeks ago. And here was a story about Ruth Hill. Now, I knew Ruth Hill as a child, but I had no idea what she had done for education. So those are gifts we can give our community from people past, present.

Don Mayhew 15:59
Well neat. I think that this is an exciting process and an opportunity for the community to come together and do something fun. Thank you for joining us today, Kathy to talk about this. And as always, thank you for your work on the board.

Kathy Danek 16:10
It’s my pleasure.

Mindy Burbach 16:11
If you have any questions about what you’ve heard here today, you can ask on our Facebook page, or on our website, LPS. org by clicking on the blue contact us button, and we will work to answer your questions on our next episode.

Don Mayhew 16:23
Also, please join us for our LPS live board preview on Facebook Tuesday, February eighth at 5pm. Before our regular board of education meeting. You can find the agenda for our board meeting on our website. Thanks again for joining us today.