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Teaching continues during pandemic
Great Bend schools are fully staffed
USD 428 Relay - masked lunch
Lunchtime at Eisenhower Elementary School includes fruits and vegetables.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges to Kansas schools, and came up several times at last Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting.

A few students and staff test positive on a regular basis, and close contacts with those individuals receive quarantine orders, which keeps them from attending school in person for a time, Assistant Superintendent John Popp said.

“There’s been very, very low transmission that we can see of contact within the schools,” he said. “The numbers are increasing, but we’re still talking in the teens, not hundreds. We don’t have to close a school unless we don’t have people to staff it.”

Superintendent Khris Thexton said teachers are helping students who attend class in person learn some of the technology they will need for remote learning if they are quarantined. They’re also teaching students what they have to know about wearing masks, social distancing and cleaning their desks. 

“They’re making sure kids know how the process works,” he said. “We know it’s going to be a tough grind all year long.”

“The 6-foot distance is really critical if you want to stay out of the quarantine circle,” Popp said.

Whether they are at home or at school, students receive benchmark testing in reading, math and English, as well as a social-emotional assessment. Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser said the assessments will be discussed with parents next week at the virtual parent-teacher conferences.

The pandemic also affects staffing, from finding and keeping teachers to having enough substitutes to fill in when teachers can’t work.

“We have all of our positions filled,” Popp said. The district is ready to start recruiting for next year’s openings. Although he usually travels to other states for recruiting fairs, most of this year’s fairs are virtual or online. “We’ve already heard from people who want to come to our district.”

There are other staff as well. This month, Thexton praised the custodial workers for all they do.

Returning to school

At the start of the school year, families were asked to choose whether they would send their children to school or keep them at home for remote learning. School board member Deanna Essmiller had questions about remote learners who are struggling more than expected.

Reiser said the teachers are “making it work.”

Thexton said some families that started school remotely are ready to return to the classroom. However, students at Great Bend High School will have to wait for the next semester. It’s hard to bring them back mid-term because of keeping the course credits straight, he said.

Popp said students are sometimes nervous about returning to school after being quarantined.

It was also mentioned in the meeting that this is Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. Thexton said it’s a topic that the district deals with throughout the year.

“Mental health is important as well– especially now,” Thexton commented. “If the kids aren’t healthy (mentally and physically), it’s hard for them to learn.”


Curricula adoptions discussed

Great Bend USD 428 Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser shared the latest news on curriculum updates with the school board Monday. The K-12 Social Studies adoption is in full implementation now. This year, the K-6 math adoption process will begin.

“We’ve actually started it,” she told the board.

K-6 Music is also on the rotation for a new curriculum. This mostly involves choosing and purchasing sheet music.

usd 438 covid - relay 2020
Six graders are Lincoln Elementary School have been learning about the body’s immune system.