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USD 428 engages students at home
Graduation plans are being considered
teacher parade Jefferson
Jefferson School teachers held a parade Wednesday, driving past their students' homes. - photo by Linda Pringle

The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education discussed plans for the next week when members met Thursday. Three board members were present at the District Education Center and three joined the meeting from other locations using Zoom software. Board member Susan Young was unable to attend.

“We’re using Zoom for virtual staff meetings, other meetings, whatever is needed,” Superintendent Khris Thexton said.

Teachers on parade

The teachers have missed the students and have been coming up with ways to keep in touch. On Wednesday, Jefferson Elementary School teachers formed a parade, driving past their students’ houses.

They had balloons and signs, and waved as they drove by.

Board member Jacquie Disque said her family watched the parade, having received notice of when it would take place.

“It was so exciting,” she said.

Thexton said the Riley Elementary School community will be treated to a teachers’ parade on Friday.

Teachers have been working on lesson plans all week, Thexton said. Students are receiving emails about when they can come to the schools to pick up items. They will be met at the door.

“Every day something pops up that you’re not thinking about and grabs your attention,” Thexton said.

Graduation hasn’t been forgotten

Board members had questions about the GBHS graduation.

“Great Bend High School will be handing out caps and gowns in the next day or two,” Thexton said. Assistant Principal Randy Wetzel has been getting feedback from seniors about their ideas for graduation.

“It’s not canceled,” he said.

“We will celebrate,” board member Deanna Essmiller agreed.

“We will have a graduation of some kind. We don’t know what it’s going to look like,” Assistant Superintendent John Popp added.

The board also passed a resolution to suspend USD 428 graduation requirements, shifting to state guidelines for this school year. Great Bend requires students to have 24 credits to graduate, but the state only requires 21 credits, Thexton said. This will help seniors, only for this graduating class, who may be on the borderline. It will not affect their ability to get into the college of their choice, Popp said.

The District Education Center is now open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays with reduced staff and by appointment only. Everyone practices social distancing, the superintendent said. “We try to keep numbers down and when they’re not here they try to work from home as much as possible.” Grounds and maintenance people are still working, he added.

Negotiations “are kind of up in the air,” Thexton said. But the board did approve a memorandum of agreement with the Great Bend - National Education Association regarding the distance learning going on now due to school closures related to COVID-19.

The board also approved a resolution to authorize funds to continue wage payments to idled regular employees who suffer a loss in pay due to an emergency closing for the period of March 16 through May 22. It was noted that the resolution will reduce turnover and ensure continuity of staff when schools reopen and it will help maintain morale.

The number of children getting lunch continues to increase daily, Thexton said.

“We’re delivering to our day-care providers here in town,” he added. For now, food supply is not an issue.

Continuous Learning Plan

Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser described some of the elements of the Continuous Learning Plan, but said the plan is “fluid.”

The Continuous Learning Plan addresses safety, academic support, social-emotional supports and communication, but face-to-face meetings are limited.

“Parents can choose pencil-paper packets or online,” Reiser said. She doesn’t know yet was percentage of families will be online. “We’ll know a whole lot more on Monday and Tuesday as we roll this out.”

Communication with parents is important, she said. For the most part, lesson plans for younger students will go out once a week and the high school will provide instruction two weeks at a time.

“The teachers are so gung-ho,” Reiser said. “We’re only planning for an hour a day – 30 minutes of reading, 30 minutes of math a day for elementary. ... The teachers are missing the kids; they’re ready to get the lessons home.”

What to expect

Earlier in the week, USD 428 Public Relations Director Andrea Bauer provided more information on how school will look next week.

“Our buildings have taken over the bulk of communication with families and students in USD 428. With lots of variables and logistics to manage at the building level, plans for Continuous Learning will have some uniform elements but will look a little different at each building and at each grade level,” Bauer said on Wednesday. “Today, buildings are wrapping up survey results from families on the availability of internet service and devices in their homes. We will then do our best to connect families with available resources.”

Other things to note this week: 

• K-6 plans are available both digitally and in a paper and pencil packet. Chromebooks will be checked out to families, one per household. 

• K-12 lesson plans/packet pickups will be available every Monday. The length of plans will vary based on grade level.

• Meal service will continue. Beginning Tuesday, March 31, serving times will be adjusted to 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. outside the five elementary buildings and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Central Kitchen. Meal counts have continued to increase each day; on Wednesday they served 999 meals.

teacher parade Jeff lineup