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Teaching continues during coronavirus outbreak
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A Jefferson Elementary School employee wearing glove gives a “high five” to a student as families drive by to pick up lessons and lunch Monday morning. photos are courtesy of GBHS journalism instructor Andy Negaard

In case anyone was wondering, learning is essential.

As students prepared to resume their education Monday at Great Bend schools via the Continuous Learning Plan, Governor Laura Kelly issued the stay-at-home order that also took effect on Monday and will last until April 19. USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton anticipated questions and explained how the school district will be affected. “Grace and flexibility” have been key words that are actually written into the plan.


Does this order change Great Bend’s Continuous Learning Plan?

“Education is an essential function and will be allowed to continue as planned,” Thexton stated in a message to families. 

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Parents/teachers Adam and Tammy Cline pose with their children Brody and Danica in a photo posted on the Eisenhower Elementary School Facebook page.

“This is a scenario the USD 428 administration and staff were preparing for when we drafted the framework for our plan.”

Operations continued as scheduled. Families utilizing paper-and-pencil packets and those with belongings left at school before the shutdown were able to pick up items from the school buildings on Monday, along with their lunches.

“These operations were designed to minimize interaction and encourage social distancing,” Thexton said.

Virtual tryouts

In a normal school year, Great Bend High School cheerleading tryouts would be held in March. Assistant Coach Lori Tennis said prospective cheerleaders in grades 8-11 wanting to try out for the squad have been invited to attend an online Zoom meeting today to learn how to apply.

In the past, after-school practices before tryouts would include the seniors teaching chants, dances, the fight song, and other skills to prospective cheerleaders. “Students would find out in April if they made the team. This allowed for summer camp, team bonding, and stunting practice before football season began,” Tennis said. 

The cheerleading coaches had to make some adjustments to tryouts this year. “Each student that is planning to try out will receive an access code to the GBHS Cheerleading Google Classroom. On Classroom, the students will find videos created by three of our seniors: McKenna Esfeld, Accacia Pedigo, and Ali Sanchez. They will also find online versions of the paperwork required for tryouts.”

Students will have until April 8 to turn in paperwork and they will have until April 15 to submit videos of the required chant, dance and skill. Coaches will contact the participants by April 22 with results.

“This is an exciting new way to conduct tryouts,” Tennis said. “Prospective cheerleaders have the opportunity to show us their best moves without others watching them. Many districts across the state are also conducting virtual tryouts. For students who do not have access to the internet, they are asked to call the high school. The high school will then get in touch with one of the coaches to come up with an alternate approach to try out.”

Fun Facebook connections

Teachers and other staff have been staying connected with students in various ways, including fun posts on Facebook. 

Eisenhower Elementary Principal JoAnn Blevins read the morning announcements to students on Tuesday, letting them know what was available for lunch and encouraging them to enjoy National Crayon Day.

Lincoln Elementary posted a slide show last Friday of staff (some in funny Snapchat photos) set to the song “We Are Family.” 

On Monday, Park Elementary posted a video of the start of the Continuous Learning Plan. The school’s therapy dog, Rudy, has made appearances and teachers have posted encouraging messages such as, “You’re Doing A Good Job.” Music teacher Marlene Regehr introduced Tiger Tunes Tuesday with plans to provide a link to a family-friendly song once a week.

Riley Elementary Principal Beth Rein created a read-aloud video for the “second first day of school.” Casey Hatzenbuehler, a third-grade teacher, changed some of the words in the Dr. Seuss book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” and Rein read, “Oh, the Places You’ll Stay!”

Jefferson Elementary teachers have posted several “bedtime read-alongs” on Facebook. Emma Goad, coordinator of Jefferson’s Kansas Reading Roadmap after-school program, read the first book, “Giraffes Can’t Dance.” The music teacher, Cassidy Childs, sang her book choice, “Over the Meadow.”

Free meals continue

“The free meal program will continue in the current format,” Thexton said. “Feeding our students is an essential service we provide and will be exempt under the Governor’s order. The curb-side operation allows parents and families to pick up meals even under the stay-home order.”

Thexton’s message to families concludes, “We are in a unique and ever-changing environment. I want to thank you all for your grace and flexibility as we work to protect and support our community. Our staff has enjoyed connecting with students and families in the last week and we are excited to launch the Continuous Learning Plan on Monday. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible.”

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Students drove past Great Bend High School on Monday to pick up assignments, graduation caps and gowns, and lunch. Shown here, Assistant Principal Randy Wetzel talks to Jayden Roach and her mother Kim Roach.