NIOBRARA1

The Morman bridge on Highway 12 between Niobrara and Niobrara State Park was wiped out by a flood.

Mother Nature has once again disrupted the 2018-19 school year for students across Nebraska.

The floodwaters have forced school districts to cancel classes and forced some students to evacuate their homes.

As the waters begin to recede, the districts and the Nebraska Department of Education are trying to figure out how the disruption will affect the school year’s remaining months.

On Sunday, the Douglas County West Community Schools canceled classes for the entire week. The majority of the district’s families were evacuated in the district of almost 980 students.

After closing “indefinitely,” the Cedar Bluffs Public Schools announced on Tuesday that school would be in session on Thursday.

The Norfolk Public Schools canceled classes on Thursday and then the district was on spring break. Students return to school on Wednesday.

In Niobrara, drinking water won’t be restored to the town until this weekend at the earliest, Jody Stark, the chairman of the Village Board, said Tuesday.

Until that happens, the local school can’t reopen, he said.

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The huge cakes of ice piled throughout the west end of town are slowly melting, and there’s been talk of trying to erect a temporary bridge for foot traffic over the Niobrara River. That would allow students from west of town to reach the school.

The Bellevue Public Schools never closed because of floodwaters, but about 300 students and families have been directly affected by the flooding, said Amanda Oliver, a spokeswoman for the district.

Oliver said no there’s no damage to the district’s buildings. And members of the community have stepped up with donations and help for those who might need it.

It’s the second time Bellevue has been socked by weather in recent years.

In 2017 two tornadoes swept through the Bellevue area. The twisters damaged homes, downed hundreds of power lines and damaged two schools — one in Bellevue and one in Papillion — and caused significant damage to Offutt Air Force Base.

After that storm, people in Bellevue banded together, too, to clean up the mess left behind.

“It never ceases to amaze us how people come together,” Oliver said.

Most metro-area schools had taken six or seven snow days before the flooding.

The state requires 1,032 hours of instructional time for students in elementary school through eighth grade and 1,080 hours for high school students.

Right now the Nebraska Department of Education is stressing safety above all else and is telling districts that the department will work with them, said David Jespersen, department spokesman.

“The big question we have is how long will anybody be closed?” Jespersen said.

Like everyone else, the department is trying to grasp the scope of the damage and what that means for individual districts.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Matt Blomstedt is reaching out to superintendents to see if they need assistance, Jespersen said.

The department is running through potential areas of concern like school lunches. Jespersen said lots of students could instantly qualify for free and reduced price lunches because they’ve lost their homes.

World-Herald staff writer Paul Hammel contributed to this report.

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Emily covers K-12 education, including Omaha Public Schools. Previously, Emily covered local government and the Nebraska Legislature for The World-Herald. Follow her on Twitter @emily_nitcher. Phone: 402-444-1192.

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