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LINCOLN -- Schools will dismiss at 1 p.m. Wednesdays through the rest of the semester to give teachers extra planning time one day a week.

Mary Ann Spears, superintendent of Lincoln School District, announced the early dismissals at the School Board meeting Monday night. She said the extra time will especially help middle school and high school teachers who are "doing double duty" by teaching in-person classes and also virtual classes.

Spears said she wants the district to do what it can to help teachers' stress levels. Some schools in the state have decided to have classes four days a week and give teachers the fifth day as a planning day, but Spears said Lincoln did not want to do that.

Buses will start running at 1 p.m., with the plan to have all students gone by 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Spears said.

The district will start early dismissals Oct. 28 and will continue until Christmas, Spears said after the meeting.

In other action, the board approved increasing the pay for substitute teachers from $75 to $85 so the district can be competitive with other schools in the area.

"We're struggling finding subs," Spears said. "Last week we had eight teaching needs that couldn't be filled."

When someone does sign up as a substitute teacher, she said it usually takes about a month before they are ready to work because of background checks and other paperwork.

Spears said she learned Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had extended the free meal program for all students through the rest of the school year. The USDA had announced in August that the free meals would be available through December.

"That's a definite celebration," Spears told board members.

Schools will be able to provide a free breakfast and lunch for all students 18 and under, whether they are attending school on site or virtually.

In addition, Spears said students who bring a lunch from home can supplement their lunch with items from the lunchroom, such as a piece of fruit or carton of milk. The school will be reimbursed for those items, Spears said.

Lynn Kutter may be reached by email at lkutter@nwadg.com.

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