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Teachers paint the playground at Riley
3 painters Riley
From left: Bette Hartshorn, Hannah Laurin and Kara Kitchen work on painting a map of the United States, hopscotch diagrams and other markings on the paved portion of the Riley Elementary School playground. - photo by BY SUSAN THACKER

Riley Elementary School Principal Beth Rein was on the move Wednesday afternoon, taking bites from her carry-out lunch as she walked toward the playground.

“I thought things might slow down,” she said, but since the schools closed their doors in March she’s been busier than ever implementing the Continuous Learning Plan. Every Monday, students pick up assignment packets for the week. They can work from the packets or use school-issued Chromebooks online. “A lot of them are doing both,” she said.

The Great Bend Tribune visited Riley on Wednesday to watch teachers paint the paved portion of the school playground. Second-grade teacher Kara Kitchen and others have volunteered their time to paint a large U.S. map, hopscotch grids and other colorful additions.

“She had always wanted to do this project,” Rein said. Kitchen taught sixth grade at Riley for five years. This year she’s teaching second grade but then she’s leaving USD 428 to become a stay-at-home mom. Kitchen made many of the stencils used for the painting project, although the school ordered the map stencil.

This was the Tribune’s first look inside a school or playground since they were closed to the public. Rein showed how the children’s restrooms are closed, with a paper X taped across each door frame. Much of the office work has moved into the hallway as everyone in the building — and those painting the playground — maintain social distance. 

Every time teachers use their classrooms, they hang a red tag on the doorknob as they leave so the cleaning crew will know to sanitize the room again.

The teachers are staying in touch with students as much as possible. They don’t take attendance but they know they're making connections with most. The older children have some math problems to solve and the younger ones enjoy show-and-tell time via Zoom meetings.

Plans are being made for the last day of school on May 21, which will include teachers making “porch visits” to kids from 4-8 p.m. Plans are also being made for some form of summer school, a topic that will be addressed at the next school board meeting on Monday, May 11. Rein said they’re also hopeful that plans can be made for a return to learning inside the school buildings this fall.


Those who have joined project leader Kitchen to work on the playground project include Bette Hartshorn and her three children, Alex Saldana, Jennifer Turner, Charlotte Hall, Hannah Laurin, Nickie Ochs, Jamie Rowan, Brenda McCulley, Jeri Lynn Patry, Casey Hatzenbuehler and her niece, Dana Wilson, Mandy Stansfield, Carol Ordonez, Sharon Denney and Bryan Scott.