This page will be where community members, parents and students can come for the latest information and links related to GIPS and the district’s COVID-19 plans. The 2022-2023 Safe Return to School Plan can be found here.
August 8, 2022: GIPS Starting ‘22-’23 School Year - Masks Optional
Grand Island Public Schools will begin the ‘22-’23 school year as Masks Optional in all district buildings and activities hosted on GIPS grounds.
Individuals may wear a mask based on their personal preference and level of risk. Best-effort preventative measures such as staying home and getting tested when sick, HVAC ventilation, physical distancing where possible, and hand washing remain in place. We are encouraged by the widespread availability of vaccines for children and adults; please reach out to your primary healthcare provider for more information.
A few friendly reminders:
- You may find the fully updated “GIPS Safe Return to School Plan” on the district web-site, HERE.
- Students and staff that are sick and/or exhibiting symptoms will be encouraged to stay home.
- Local COVID-19 testing sites may be found HERE courtesy of the Central District Health Department (CDHD).
- Vaccine information for children ages 6 months and up as well as general vaccine info are also available courtesy of the CDHD.
We continue to monitor the fluid situation of the pandemic reviewing related data and updating our COVID-19 Dashboard (parked at the top of the page) on a weekly basis. Please note, a scenario could arise of which we may revert back to universal masking if deemed necessary or mandated by the state or local officials.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to your student(s) principals or reach out through Let's Talk.
Thank you for collaborating with us as we focus on Every Student, Every Day, A Success. We will continue to work together to keep student and staff safety at the forefront as we look to kick-off the new school year with positive momentum.
Thank you for all you do!
March 3, 2022: GIPS Buses & Masks - CDC Update
In light of the latest CDC recommendations, masks will move to recommended but not mandatory on all buses and other district provided transportation effective today. If students wish to wear a mask but do not have one handy, they may request one from their transportation driver.
The safety of GIPS students remains one of our highest priorities and we appreciate your continued support as we navigate the pandemic.
If you have additional questions, please reach out to your building principal or send correspondence through Let's Talk.
Feb. 17, 2022: Grand Island Public Schools to Move Back to Masks Recommended not Mandatory Status and 5-Day Class Weeks Feb. 21
By being flexible and working together we have seen improved medical/illness related absentee rates within our buildings. In that light, we wanted to share an important update:
Effective Monday, February 21, 2022, GIPS will move to a Masks Recommended not Mandatory status and Friday classes will be back in session, starting next week, per the GIPS approved calendar.
We will be returning to the protocols highlighted in the district Safe Return to School Plan Addendum which may be found on the GIPS website HERE.
A few friendly reminders:
- The official update for the district will be: Masks Recommended not Mandatory both during and after school hours for students, staff, families, and visitors.
- Masks will still be required of students riding district-provided transportation per Federal Law.
- Be mindful of the CDC isolation guidelines for confirmed positive COVID-19 cases which are in the linked addendum.
- Please note, vaccines also serve as another layer of safety. For medical questions, please consult with your physician. GIPS will keep working alongside the CDHD to help make the vaccine as accessible as possible to those who want it.
- Continue to refer to the Safe Return to School One Sheeter — English and Spanish. This provides a concise, visual friendly edition of the district protocols.
- Building level communication will be provided by Principals only if 5% and/or 8% medical/illness related absenteeism are reached. If multiple cases occur in a classroom or group of students, further communication may be shared on a case by case basis.
Our district pandemic data, as well as the greater community’s, has shown a favorable, downward trend during these last weeks of increased safety measures. We are encouraged by the strength of our shared response and the results we’ve seen in terms of minimizing medical/illness related absences. You may find the data review from last week’s Board of Education meeting HERE (at hour 3:00:16).
We understand there may be concerns about support for those who choose to wear masks and those who don’t. Those concerns are valid and are top of mind for our leadership and teachers. We’d like to affirm, for you and our students, that we remain committed to cultivating inclusive environments within our schools.
We continue to monitor the fluid situation of the pandemic reviewing related data and updating our COVID-19 Dashboard on a daily basis. Please note, a scenario could arise of which we may revert back to universal masking if deemed necessary or mandated by the state or local officials.
These past weeks were unprecedented and found us facing unprecedented measures in terms of the pandemic and the goal of keeping our buildings open. Thankfully, we have reached a point where we can, once again, feel more confident in moving forward to masks being recommended and not mandatory.
We appreciate our families as well as our students for their agility and ability to value our short term adjustments in navigating the pandemic. We appreciate our community for the sacrifices they’ve made for the collective good of our students and staff and for their continued trust. It is with their support and understanding that we have been able to maintain in-person learning all year long to date.
Thank you for collaborating with us as we focus on Every Student, Every Day, A Success. We will continue to work together to keep student and staff safety at the forefront as we aim to finish our school year strong.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach through Let’s Talk.
Thank you for your continued support!
Dr. Tawana Grover
Superintendent, Grand Island Public Schools
Jan. 17, 2022: Grand Island Public Schools Launches a Temporary 4-Day Class Week Initiative
Due to an all-time high in medical/illness related absentee rates and ensuring optimal operations for staff, we are providing an important update:
Effective this Friday, January 21, 2022, GIPS will be moving to a temporary 4-day school week for all students.
There will also be no school on the following dates:
- January 21
- January 28
- February 4
- February 11 (already a no school day for students)
- February 18
Students will be off on those days.
Staff will still report to buildings for ample time to plan and prepare for the following week of classes. More information on specifics regarding these staff opportunities will be shared later this week.
In-person learning will continue Monday through Thursday.
So why this flexibility and why now?
Dr. Tawana Grover, Superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools, issued an important charge:
“It is imperative we position ourselves to persist through the challenges of this pandemic. We are taking every step in deploying strategies and tactics to fight back against this virus in order to keep our school doors open.” Dr. Grover emphasized, “In order for us to overcome these challenges, we must continue to be stronger together.
We appreciate our families as well as our students for their agility and ability to understand the value of these short term adjustments to reach our long term goal of finishing the year. We appreciate our community for the sacrifices they’ve made for the collective good of our students. We appreciate the resolute and resilient nature of our staff for what they do to make this district strong.
“The only way forward is with a viable, healthy staff.”
Mrs. Lisa Albers, President of the Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education, echoed the urgency, “A vital component to keeping our buildings open is having our staff available to continue to lead and teach.” Albers affirmed, “Teachers are giving up their planning time to cover classes for their sick colleagues. Our staff have understandably been impacted by this wave. They need more frequent opportunities to reset and prepare without having to cram it into an already stressed schedule. Our teachers need our support.”
GIPS will continue to monitor and evaluate the schedule and provide an update to the community on or before February 18, 2022 with a decision on whether or not the protocol will extend.
Continuity of learning will remain intact.
All activities will remain as scheduled unless otherwise notified by the hosting building.
Ultimately, we all share the same primary goal — keeping our buildings as safe as possible so that in-person learning may continue to take place each and every day in our schools. Ensuring every aspect of our operations from classroom teachers to custodians have the support necessary for students to succeed is a top priority.
“We recognize that this is a big adjustment,” Dr. Grover mentioned, “and our gratitude to our families cannot be overstated."
Jan. 13, 2022: Temporary Mandatory Masking at All GIPS Schools to Start Jan. 14
Due to rising medical/illness related absentee rates and confirmed COVID cases, we wanted to bring an important update to your attention:
Effective tomorrow January 14, 2022, all GIPS buildings will be implementing a five week temporary mandatory masking protocol.
We will continue to monitor and evaluate the conditions and provide an update to the community on or before February 18, 2022 with a decision on whether or not the protocol will extend.
With these measures in place we are continuing with in-person learning.
The next weeks are critical in terms of decreasing the medical/illness related absentee rate. A temporary period of mandatory masking in all district schools will aid in those efforts and help us continue with keeping all schools open for in-person learning.
Please note a few additional friendly reminders:
- Students and staff that are sick and/or exhibiting symptoms are encouraged to stay at home.
- The temporary mandatory mask protocol includes all district events.
- Please refer to the Safe Return to School One Sheeter for more helpful information.
Ultimately, we share the same primary goal — keeping our buildings as safe as possible so that in-person learning may continue to take place each and every day in our schools.
Should you have any questions about school precautions and operations please reach out to your principal(s). For medical related concerns please contact your primary care provider or CDHD.
The safety of GIPS students remains one of our highest priorities and we appreciate your continued support as we navigate the pandemic.
Dec. 9, 2021: GIPS moves to masks recommended not mandatory, looks forward to the second half of school year
Grand Island Public Schools announced plans to transition to masks recommended but not mandatory for staff, students, and visitors effective January 3, 2022. Superintendent Dr. Grover presented the information during the GIPS Board of Education meeting on Dec. 9.
The GIPS pandemic team and administrators have continuously engaged with local and statewide medical health officials, the Central District Health Department (CDHD), other school districts and as they delved into research and considered the impact of the pandemic on the district’s schools.
As of November 3, 2021 the vaccine became available for students ages 5 and older. The vaccine availability to younger children led to the consideration for masks to be recommended but not mandatory. In making this decision, GIPS surveyed their parents to gain a better understanding of their comfort level with masks potentially being optional. The survey yielded clear results with 85% of parent respondents and 88% of staff respondents expressing somewhat or very comfortable levels with a potential update to masks recommended.
“The resiliency and agility of our staff, students and families in the midst of this pandemic is to be commended,” Dr. Grover shared, “Student and staff safety remains one of the district’s top priorities. We recognize that the scope of the pandemic and its impact on our schools has changed, and we will continue to evolve with it to ensure our students thrive.”
As the district prepares to make the transition to masks recommended but not mandatory starting January 3, 2022, GIPS will work alongside the CDHD to help make the vaccine as accessible as possible to those who want it.
GIPS views the vaccine availability as not only important but as an opportunity to transition to masks recommended not mandatory.
An addendum to the Safe Return to School Plan has been drafted which addresses new thresholds and considerations for pandemic protocols. That will be made public and available online in the coming days. The GIPS COVID dashboard is still receiving regular updates and may be found online as well.
“We will continue to move along with the pace of our community and work with our health officials as we have throughout this process to monitor, review, and adjust,” Dr. Grover said. “There are many great things to look forward to as we enter the next phase of the school year at GIPS. We will continue to keep safety at the forefront, while focusing on Every Student, Every Day, A Success.”
Oct. 2021: We are already more than two months into school, and are pleased to share that Grand Island Public Schools are still open and students are still learning! As we look forward to the next quarter, we are already starting to feel the excitement around the holidays. We can’t think of a better way to commemorate the occasion than by welcoming families to our buildings for holiday concerts and the Mary Poppins musical.
Even with all the budding holiday cheer, our top priority is maintaining safe learning environments throughout the district.
Grand Island Public Schools continues to navigate this unique year and the challenges the pandemic brings. With that in mind, GIPS is committed to providing an update for staff, families and community no later than October 25.
The current protocols as outlined in the GIPS Safe Return to School Plan will continue, including universal mask wearing while inside all GIPS buildings.
When implementing any changes in protocols such as masks, Grand Island Public Schools considers the community safety threshold along with other data impacting schools such as illnesses, absences, and/or hospitalizations.
In making the decision to continue requiring masks inside all GIPS buildings, GIPS reviewed local data. As of October 20, there were 224 cases per 100,000 population over the previous seven days. The GIPS Safe Return to School Plan defines substantial transmission as 50 cases per 100,000.
The GIPS COVID-19 Dashboard may be found above.
GIPS is committed to providing another update earlier or no later than January 4, 2022.
As a reminder, last week the GIPS Board of Education approved a calendar change for the upcoming fall break. November 22 and 23 will now be mental health days for staff and students, which extends fall break. Fall break will now be November 22-26, 2021. There will be no school on those days. In addition, students will not have school on Monday, November 29, as it is a professional development day for staff.
Thank you for helping GIPS maintain a safe learning environment so students can continue to learn, grow and thrive.
The Grand Island Public Schools recognizes staff are enduring a great deal of stress this school year as they continue to work to overcome challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has been compounded by illnesses such as RSV, strep throat, hand foot and mouth disease and seasonal colds.
“GIPS is feeling the effects of the national labor shortage, specifically in the area of certified and classified positions. This limited availability within the workforce is impacting daily fill rates for substitutes. Many staff are covering multiple classrooms to ensure continuity of learning and serving in other capacities in order to provide a safe learning environment for students,” said Dr. Tawana Grover, GIPS Superintendent.
The GIPS mission remains "Every Student, Every Day, A Success" and is only realized with a healthy and whole staff. GIPS is having to review operations daily to achieve their goal: Start Strong to Finish Strong.
This year is proving to be more challenging, which means GIPS must reset as needed for the benefit of students and staff and sustain safety protocols while remaining focused on keeping schools open for learning onsite.
Calendar Change- No School Friday September 24, 2021
Students and staff will be provided a day off Friday, September 24, 2021 to reset for the days ahead. Meals will be available for students. Activities will continue as scheduled. Grand Island Public Schools thanks stakeholders in advance for understanding the predicaments faced by school districts this school year.
“Our staff and students need this opportunity to mentally and physically reset. The disruptions in learning due to the strains in our workforce have altered schedules and required readjustment to the sequencing of academic and activity related experiences,” Grover stated.
Staff and students are asked to take the day to destress from the complexities of the pandemic and focus on self-care during this three day weekend. Their overall wellbeing is critical to their success.
“GIPS is very appreciative of the Grand Island Public Schools Board of Education for creating space in its school culture to consider the mental health of staff and students,” remarked Grover. The GIPS administration will be taking a newly proposed 2021-2022 school calendar with changes to reflect mental health to the Board of Education for consideration of approval during the October 14 regularly scheduled board meeting.
When implementing any changes in protocols such as masks, GIPS considers the community safety threshold along with other data impacting schools such as illnesses, absences, and/or hospitalizations. GIPS committed to providing an update for staff, families and community no later than September 27.
Following review of the data, the current protocols as outlined in the GIPS Safe Return to School Plan will continue, including universal mask wearing while inside all GIPS buildings.
In making the decision to continue requiring masks inside all GIPS buildings, GIPS reviewed local data. As of September 21, there were 415 cases per 100,000 population over the previous seven days. The GIPS Safe Return to School Plan defines substantial transmission as 50 cases per 100,000.
GIPS is also monitoring cases inside its schools which currently have an average of 6.7 cases per school day. During the 2020-2021 school year the average rate was 3.8 cases per school day. A high amount of absences due to illnesses have been reported since the beginning of the school year.
GIPS will continue to address the impact of COVID-19 in the community by gathering research and engaging with the Central District Health Department, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and local medical professionals to ensure a safe school environment.
GIPS is embracing the power of recharging and looking forward to a day of professional development for staff Monday, September 27. GIPS custodial crew will take this day to deep clean schools.
Grover stated, “Safety remains our top priority. We want our students to continue to learn, grow and thrive. Thank you to our school community for your continued support during these unprecedented times. We appreciate your partnership. We are One GIPS For ALL!"
The next community update will be no later than October 25, 2021.
Effective Tuesday, August 10, 2021 Grand Island Public Schools will temporarily require masks for all PK-12 staff, students and visitors while inside school buildings, due to the rising and prolonged COVID-19 transmission rates in our community.
Students participating in school-approved activities (such as performers and athletes) are currently not required to wear a mask. We will continue to review NSAA guidelines.
GIPS will reevaluate the decision to require masks on Monday, September 27, 2021. Masks and hand sanitizer will continue to be available for those who need them.
GIPS is following the Safe Return to School Plan that went into effect August 1, which is available on our website. The plan states that masks will be encouraged, supported, and optional unless "Substantial Transmission" of 50 cases per 100,000 occur in Hall County as indicated by total new cases.
When implementing any changes in protocols such as masks, GIPS considers the threshold and data that may directly impact schools such as illnesses, absences, and/or hospitalizations.
Current Hall County case rates are well above the threshold, at 80 cases per 100,000. When monitoring the pandemic, GIPS works with and considers information from the Central District Health Department, the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Global Center for Health Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
We have closely monitored the local COVID-19 case rates, and were hopeful the start of school would be different from last year. The challenges of this pandemic persist, and the Delta variant is proving to be a major concern, especially among children. GIPS has made the decision to temporarily require masks as a proactive measure to keep students and staff safe, and to keep schools open. It is critical that our students stay in school and that we start the year strong, so we can finish the year strong.
Safety remains our top priority, and we want our students to continue to learn, grow and thrive. GIPS will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 in our community by gathering research and engaging with the Central District Health Department and local medical professionals to ensure a safe school environment.
We thank our families, staff, students and community for their support. Masks or no masks, our mission stays the same: Every Student, Every Day, A Success. We will get through this together. We are One GIPS for All!
-Dr. Tawana Grover, GIPS Superintendent
To contact GIPS, the best way is through our Let’s Talk feature. We pledge to respond to all questions within 24 hours.