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‘Grace and flexibility’ define school plans
chamber coffee 5-17-2020
Great Bend USD 428 hosted a virtual Great Bend Chamber Coffee on Thursday, May 14, Clockwise from top left: Chamber President/CEO Megan Barfield, Superintendent Khris Thexton, Assistant Superintendent John Popp and Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser.

Early last week, Great Bend USD 428 was making plans for summer school starting as early a June 1. But with Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement Thursday afternoon that the timetable for reopening Kansas had changed, the school district’s plan will also be affected.

Administrators talked about summer plans when the school board met on Monday, May 11, and again on Thursday morning when the District Education Center hosted a virtual Chamber of Commerce Coffee. At that time, Kansans were still expecting Phase 2 of the state’s Ad Astra Plan to take effect on May 18. In the afternoon, Kelly announced “Phase 1.5” The state won’t get to Phase 2 until at least June 1.

On Friday, the Great Bend Tribune asked Assistant Superintendent John Popp if that could create a problem for USD 428’s summer school plan.

“Yes, I believe the change in the opening phases will impact summer school,” Popp said. “We are weighing our options at this time and should have more definite plans next week.”

Now that the school year is winding down, students have received their final online learning packets and those with school-issued Chromebook devices have returned them to the schools.

Before Ad Astra Phase 1.5 was announced, Popp said the timeline for reopening Kansas meant Great Bend would be able to offer “some form of summer school.”

“We’ve been working to get that ready,” he added. Students will be allowed to attend by invitation only, the number of people in each building will be limited to 90, and there will be 6 feet between desks. The district is planning a test run later this month.

Superintendent Khris Thexton noted that changes have occurred frequently – sometimes daily – in response to the pandemic. “Grace and flexibility” have been the guiding words for the school district since March, he said. “It’s been quite the ride for us all – teachers, parents, staff, students, and community.”

The administrators commented on the dedication of district employees, including custodians and food service workers. Popp recalled “there was a lot of fear” the first week that a statewide stay-at-home order was issued, but the staff stepped up. At the Central Kitchen, employees said, “these kids need food and we’re coming to work.”

Thexton agreed, saying, “It makes us feel good to have such a supporting community.”

Food service

The Food Service department at Great Bend USD 428 handed out 45,085 meals during the month of April, Superintendent Khris Thexton told the school board this past week.

“Keep in mind this is two meals at a time, breakfast and lunch,” Thexton said. That’s about 2,000 meals a day. The meals have been coming, in good weather and bad, since March when the schools were closed. Food service will continue to make meals available through the end of the school year, which is Thursday, May 21. They’ll take the next week off and resume on Monday, June 1.

Thexton said the district hopes to offer some sort of food service through July.

He mentioned food service again on Thursday when the school district hosted a virtual Chamber of Commerce coffee.