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Graduation plans still unclear
USD 428 prepares for summer
GBMS tile screenshot
This screenshot of Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 school board meeting shows what the Great Bend Middle School commons area might look after tiles are replaced. The district will be taking bids on the project.

Plans to have a June 14 Great Bend High School graduation may not agree with Gov. Laura Kelly’s timeline for reopening the state, so the commencement planning committee is looking at other options, Superintendent Khris Thexton told the school board Monday. More information should be available later this week, he added.

“The one thing that’s kind of on everybody’s minds right now is our high school commencement,” Thexton said. GBHS Principal Tim Friess and Assistant Principal Randy Wetzel are working on it.

After tentative plans were announced for a June 14 graduation at GBHS’s Memorial Stadium, the governor issued another executive order that limits mass gatherings to no more than 90 individuals until at least June 15. And, if the number of COVID-19 cases or deaths merits a delay, that date could be even later.

“So, we’re going to see how that looks,” Thexton said. “Our commencement is outside so that helps us with the space, but still the mass gathering is there.” That has to be considered to make sure everyone stays safe.

Looking at June

Thexton said June 1 is the date that the Kansas High School Activities Association will allow summer activities such as conditioning practices for fall sports.

School board member Don Williams asked if students will be pressured to attend.

“I know our coaches are going to be anxious to get their athletes back into some kind of conditioning program, but is (Activities Director) David Meter working with them? I mean, sometimes athletes can feel a lot of pressure and a need to come into those trainings. I just want them to be kind of protected as well," Williams said.

“All summer activities are voluntary,” Thexton said. “I don’t want kids or parents to feel pressure. If they’re not comfortable sending their kids to a workout like this, that’s not going to be held against them. There’s no punishment that goes along with that — we just need to make sure that, Number 1, kids are safe.”

Students may need to attend a certain number of conditioning practices before they can fully start sports. "There might be a little slower rollout than people have been used to in the past but to me, that’s not a bad thing,” he said.

“We want to make sure that people understand that we’re going through this very slowly and very methodically. We want to make sure that we’re working with our local health department, making sure that we’re following all the state guidelines.” He added, “We’re going to make sure kids are taken care of, they’re being watched, and we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe.”

Plans to offer driver’s education came out last week and were approved by the health department. The classroom portion will start June 10 with small gatherings and everyone maintaining social distancing. Students won’t start driving until Phase 4 of the governor’s Ad Astra Plan, which will be no earlier than June 15 and possibly later.

Summer school

June 1 is also when the district can start looking at summer school in the buildings, Thexton said.

Summer school will be limited to no more than 90 students and teachers per building and will be by invitation only. It will target students who may have fallen behind during the spring semester.

The district also wants to make sure special education students’ needs are met, Thexton said.

With special education, summer school, driver’s education and athletics, “when you try to keep all of those balls in the air, it’s amazing how much stuff goes on in the summertime.”

Food service will run through the end of the regular school year, when ends May 21. There will be a one-week break, and then food service will resume on June 1.

Action items

The school board approved the following licensed teacher resignations:

• Jennifer Demaree, orchestra teacher at GBMS

• Maxwell Chamberlain, choir director at GBMS

• Rae Rice, English teacher at GBMS

• Alden Adams, special education teacher at Helping Hands Preschool

• Rachel Clawson, second-grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School

• Alana Settle, English teacher at GBHS

The board approved the following licensed teacher appointments:

• Peyton (Broeker) Zink, speech language pathologist for Barton County Special Services.

• Tera Arnberger, English teacher at GBMS

• Angela Petersen, technology specialist at Park Elementary School

• Kirstyn Latham, science teacher at GBHS (transition program)

• JoAnn Suchy, vocal music teacher at GBMS

• Alex Birney, science teacher at GBHS (transition program)

• Aubrey Maneth, orchestra teacher at GBMS

• Joseph Bliven, science teacher at GBMS

• Kelli Henderson, English teacher at GBHS 

The board approved the following contributions and grant submissions:

• Lincoln Elementary School will receive $71.10 in Coca Cola community reward incentives, $1.20 in Casey’s General Store reward incentives and $432.98 in Dillons Food Store reward incentives

• GBHS will receive $1,000 from Wheatland Electric for the Vocational Technology Class Electric Car Program and $80 from Sandra and Terry Gregg to the Panther Paw Restaurant

• BoxTop reward incentives were awarded: $3.40 to Riley Elementary, $105.60 to Lincoln Elementary, $7.20 to Helping Hands Preschool and $8.10 to GBMS.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a quick look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 meeting.

• The board approved 2020-2021 handbooks for teachers, students, athletics and activities.

• Next year’s schedule of board meeting dates and locations was approved. Usually, the board meets at 5 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at the District Education Center. During seven of the months, the board holds a noon luncheon meeting later in the month at one of the district schools.

• A summer schedule was approved for the District Education Center. The office will close at noon on Fridays from May 29 through July 31. Employees will have the opportunity to work their number of contracted hours.

• The board approved the low quotes for copy paper for the next school year. Quotes were for 600 cartons of 8.5 x 11 paper and 40 cartons of 11 x 17 paper. Last year the district ordered 640 cases and 40 cases, respectively, for a total cost of $19,922. This year’s low quote from Veritiv Operating Co. is for $17,677.

• The administration received board approved to release tile flooring bid specifications for specified areas at Great Bend Middle School.

• An interagency agreement with ESSDACK was renewed. ESSDACK provides staff development and other educational support for school districts, including the opportunity for adults to earn a diploma.

• The Assistant Superintendent/Curriculum Report included information about the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year in August. The first day with students will be Aug. 20.

• The Superintendent’s Report included: GBHS commencement, federal CARES funding, summer school, student meal update, retiring employee recognition, interest-based bargaining, project updates and approval of contributions.

• Personnel changes were approved.