Over the past few months, the Nebraska State Board of Education has met via Zoom. Zoom is a video conferencing tool widely used for meetings and in the past few months used in the delivery of instruction. This tool is a great way to connect when meeting in person is not possible or convenient. I have been involved with national meetings that have been on Zoom for several years. For these meetings it has been cost and time effective to have a two-hour meeting via Zoom, rather than travel for two days somewhere around the country for a short meeting.

After our third month of Nebraska State Board meetings, committee meetings, national meetings and using Zoom with family and friends, I must say I am a little “Zoom” weary. It has given me a perspective of why many students and teachers were starting to grow weary of remote learning. The past couple of weeks it has been clear that not just students needed to get outside and play, adults also needed to “unplug” from this new normal.

Via Zoom, the members of the Nebraska State Board of Education have been busy the past few months. We are not nearly as busy as the Commissioner of Education Matt Blomstedt, or the Nebraska Department of Education staff, who have worked tirelessly to help serve schools and communities across the state. And there is no comparison to the planning and problem solving being undertaken by school districts across the state. Local school board members, school district administrators and teachers are looking at their busiest summer ever. School staff are busy trying to provide some summer school options for students and plan for all the unknowns for the start of the school year. The unsung heroes at the moment are those local school board members and school administrators trying to determine a plan of action that best meets the needs of their communities.

The Nebraska Department of Education is not mandating how schools open in the fall. They are providing guidance and encouraging school communities to use solutions that best meet the needs and circumstances within that community. A “one size fits all” approach is not in the best interest of students, families and communities in Nebraska.

In May, a petition was filed requesting the Nebraska State Board of Education provide specific direction on how many of the rules and regulations will apply as a result of the COVID pandemic. This petition required additional meetings for the state board to consider the petition and provide a declaratory order in response to the petition. This is a part of the quasi-judicial responsibilities of the Nebraska State Board. On June 17, the state board had a special board meeting to issue this order. The order can be found on the NDE Web site, but in essence the Nebraska State Board of Education is committed to using the full scope of its constitutional authority whether executive, legislative or judicial, to ensure access to high quality educational opportunities by providing relief, flexibility and clarity to schools, school districts and educational service units. The order continues to state that such flexibility will be a benefit to students as well as Nebraska schools. The two driving themes of this unique moment in time are to ensure that schools are encouraged to find innovative solutions in the delivery of education and to reaffirm the Nebraska State Board and the commissioner will work to find flexibility within the law.

In other recent business of the Nebraska State Board of Education, a resolution was passed in support of all the individuals who have kept our communities, state and country moving forward during this pandemic. This resolution reflects the gratitude the Nebraska State Board of Education has for the critical front-line workforce, including educators, that have stepped up service to meet the needs of Nebraskans across this fine state. The full resolution can be found on the NDE Web site listed below.

This article represents my personal view, not that of the State Board of Education. Feel free to contact me at rachel.wise@nebraska.gov. Search the Nebraska Department of Education website at www.education.ne.gov to learn more about education in our state.