Recap: Sept. 14 school board meeting includes change to November calendar

Jimmy Gow, Reporter

In addition to altering the 2020-2021 school calendar, the school board approved a pay increase for substitute teachers and heard from Edward Ventura regarding Native American mascots.

Schedule change

Nov. 3, Election Day, will now be a staff-only school day. Superintendent Dr. Jeff Rippe said giving students the day off will limit exposure to the general public and allow custodial staff time for a thorough cleaning of the campuses. This will not add a day to the school year. Rippe said the school board will consider future Election Days to be staff only as well. 

COVID-19 updates

Rippe gave a back-to-school report detailing up-to-date information about the district’s efforts to keep people safe as well as congratulating students and staff for their dedication to safety protocols. 

There have been 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the district, according to the Bellevue Public Schools website at time of publication. Rippe said that none of the confirmed cases have been contracted within school buildings. Every case has been traced back to family members, community events, or similar outside sources. 

Nebraska has moved on to Phase 4 of reopening, but this will not change the districts current safety protocols. Rippe said that social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, and sanitizing have been critical to controlling the spread of the virus. 

Counselors and at-home learners

Students have been introduced to unique stresses this year. In response, the school board has elected to expand its counseling and therapy staff. Using the School Climate Transformation Grant from Boys Town, the district has hired a drug and alcohol counselor. Along with that, every elementary school now has a full-time counselor.  

Concerns over the pandemic have pushed many students into virtual learning environments. There are 700 students across the district schooling in such environments. Counselors have been “more active” and “very busy” with at home families, according to assistant superintendent Dr. Robert Moore. 

Instructional coaches

The district is now a 1:1 environment. Every student has an iPad. Moore said the district has been “very methodical” in training its teachers in the proper use of this technology. This year will see 100 more teachers trained. In order to support them, there is now an instructional coach at every school building.

Substitute teacher pay raise

Substitute teachers can expect a rise in salary. The board is increasing rates from $150 to $165 per day for short term assignments and from $165 to $175 for long term assignments. This is to ensure BPS stays competitive with neighboring districts. 

Financial updates and annexing

BPS has seen an increase in funding this year. Total general fund operating budget will exceed last year’s by 3% with the total bond operating budget exceeding last year’s by 17%. 

The South Sarpy Land Agreement gives land in Springfield Platteview Community Schools district to BPS. Belle Lago developers will be giving the land to BPS. The homes within that land will be considered part of BPS, therefore the property tax will be going to Bellevue schools. All all in all, BPS will be receiving more funding this year. 

Open forum time 

The board opened the floor to the public and Ed Ventura took the stand. He discussed BPS’ appropriation of Native American culture.  He described what cultural appropriation means and how it applies to Bellevue schools. Ventura specifically called out the Warriors, Braves, and Chieftains mascots for their depiction of stereotypical Native American people. He called for the board to examine the district’s appropriated mascots and make a change.