Jeff Rippe, superintendent for Bellevue Public Schools, addresses students during the Bellevue East and West virtual graduation May 23.

After Bellevue Public Schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic in March — and ultimately stayed closed for the rest of the academic year — the district is looking to the future.

The district completed the school year by hosting its virtual graduations for Bellevue East and West High Schools May 23, with all schools ending May 15.

The Welcome Center District Office, 2600 Arboretum Drive, opened June 1 to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. The building will is closed Fridays.

Attendees must wear a mask inside the building, and will be limited to one person per household, according to the district office’s website.

Other BPS buildings will remain closed, including the BPS Lied Activity Center. Playgrounds and athletic fields will also remained closed.

Though the school year ended on a somber note for BPS, Superintendent Jeff Rippe said he was happy with how staff, students and parents handled the situation.

“It’s not ideal, but everyone recognized the situation,” he said. “I’m glad the year is over, though there are a lot of unknowns.”

Rippe said he is still unaware of the fall when students are due to return to school, or if the August in-person graduation will occur, though the district will keep parents, students and staff notified when those events occur.

“The hope is to have students return,” Rippe said. “And we hope when they do return, it’s a safe environment.”

BPS’ summer school program will be 100% remote, and teachers will speak with students live over Zoom.

Summer school started Monday for first through 12th grades. The high school levels will only offer credit recovery for grades 10 through 12, and health and physical education for ninth-graders.

The Kids’ Time summer program also opened June 1 for students in first through sixth grades.

Meal programs will also continue throughout the summer Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to noon at Avery, Belleaire, Bertha Barber, Betz, Birchcrest, Peter Sarpy and Twin Ridge Elementary Schools. Children ages 1 to 18 will receive breakfast and lunch to take home at no charge.

The district has followed guidelines given by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and is also working closely with the Sarpy/Cass Health Department on how to return safely.

Rippe said his main concern is returning safely when schools do open.

“We know positive COVID-19 cases will come, and we’ve explored options (on how to respond) for that,” he said. “Our focus is preparing for August and our safety measures.”

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