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First Day: USD 428 classes start
Mrs. Weller 2nd grade 2020 day 1
Mrs. Weller is shown with her second-grade class as school gets underway, Thursday morning at Park Elementary School. - photo courtesy of Phil Heeke, Park Principal

A sign at the entrance of Park Elementary School advised parents to share their hugs with students outside, as no visitors were being admitted inside.

Thursday was the first day of classes in Great Bend USD 428, and children arrived at the schools wearing masks and carrying supplies. 

At Park school, teachers and staff met children at the doors, with different grades using different entrances to promote social distancing.

“I’m so glad to have the kids come back,” said Principal Phil Heeke, who wore an orange Park School mask. Nurse Aide Venessa Favela’s mask read, “Miss Favela.”

Some of the new things Great Bend students will experience this year include being issued five washable cloth face masks, having their temperature taken when they enter the building and sanitizing or washing their hands often.

Inside their classrooms, students and teachers also will wear their masks while maintaining social distance. The desks are several feet apart.

“We also have mask breaks at different times of the day,” Heeke said. Because children are invited to find creative ways to play that don’t require a lot of close contact, the school’s Booster Club paid to have some mask-break artwork added to the sidewalk outdoors. It sports a trail of shapes and letters of the alphabet that children can follow as they stretch their legs and enjoy some fresh air.

For Park students entering the school off of Williams Street, they also had the chance to stay hello to 88-year-old Albert Robinson, who is starting his 20th year as a school crossing guard.

It was a similar story at other USD 428 schools. Riley Elementary had a photo-op station at every entrance because only students and staff were allowed inside.