ELLINWOOD — When the USD 355 Board of Education met Monday night, Aug. 10, members reviewed the district plan for reopening schools. Like other districts in the county, in-school and remote options are being offered for the coming school year, depending on what families choose for their students. Changes can be made at the end of the semester, but there will be no mid-semester changes allowed.
The plan outlined safety and wellness parameters, noting that all aspects of Governor Laura Kelly’s Executive Order #20-59 will be followed and enforced. Face coverings will be required, along with temperature checks (twice a day for students), regular hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, and observance of social distancing of at least 6 feet for all people in the school.
Ellinwood Hospital and Clinic is partnering with the district to assist both USD 355 and St. Joseph Catholic School with the masking and sanitizing effort. It will provide a mask pack to all students, staff and teachers at each of the learning centers. Each pack will include three adjustable cotton masks, a travel bottle of hand sanitizer that attaches to a backpack, and a checklist of protective measures and symptoms. They will be handed out on the first day of school, Thursday, Aug. 27.
In-school students will attend classes much as they always have, though lockers will not be assigned and classrooms will be reorganized for social distancing, and masks will be required. Breakfasts for all students will be served as “grab and go.” Grade schoolers will have lunch served to them in the classroom, and at the middle and high school, students will pick up their lunch in the cafeteria and bring it back to their classroom to eat. Tables, chairs and desks will be sanitized after lunch daily.
For families that choose the remote learning option, children in kindergarten through 8th grade will require parental supervision, and students in grades 9-12 will require parent monitoring. In addition, unlike those choosing in-school participation, remote students will not be eligible for KSHSAA or school sponsored sports and activities, including concerts, dances, field days, etc.
School-owned devices will be loaned to remote students and they will be required to be logged in and engaged via a classroom video connection throughout the entire class period, for the entire school day. The same classroom requirements of in-school students will be expected from those at home. In addition, for those who select the remote option, parents must provide evidence of some broadband internet connectivity at home.
“In a required remote learning environment, the district would again attempt to work with families to help bridge any technical deficiencies that may exist within a home or place of care,” USD 355 Superintendent Ben Jacobs informed The Great Bend Tribune in an email Thursday.
Should circumstances change and in-school instruction needs to be altered in the interest of safety, the district may be required to pause in-school instruction, so an alternative plan for a hybrid instruction model was also introduced. It essentially divides the pool of students in two, with Group A attending in-school classes in the morning, and Group B in the afternoon. A grab and go lunch would be provided between 11:30 a.m. and noon as students make the transition.
“All students would attend every day in smaller sections,” the document states. “The same content would be taught in the morning and afternoon to different groups. Wednesday’s instruction could be on-site or remote and formatted flexibly to the benefit of the students.”
The hybrid model could also be used in the event all students must attend school remotely.
Jacobs noted in the event remote learning becomes required, the school day could be structured differently than when it is a selected option, particularly as it pertains to the supervision piece.
“It is relatively self-evident that the district will have to make SOME accommodations with certain aspects of remote learning when it is required,” he wrote. “The supervision requirement would very likely be included in these referenced accommodations.”
As far as internet connectivity, the district would do what it can to work with families once more to bridge technology gaps that may exist.
The plan is a “living document,” subject to change as new information or circumstances arise.
The school board were appreciative of the efforts of the 25 person team that developed the plan, Jacobs added.
“They felt the involvement of a diverse set of stakeholders in the community gave the plan credibility and support immediately, and that the plan was comprehensive due to the variety of perspectives,” Jacobs said. “I believe they really like the plan and think it will serve the district well.”
Registration is underway for USD 355 students, and so far, in-school instruction is what the overwhelming majority of families are choosing, Jacobs reports, with only a few students signed up for remote learning.