The health policies crafted for the reopening of schools this month call for face coverings and for maximizing physical distance in each building and classroom, but that isn’t always possible when students are participating in sports, performing arts or simple playground play. Great Bend USD 428’s restart plan includes guidelines for “healthy activities.”
“There’s no such thing as zero risk in anything we do, and certainly not during a pandemic,” Superintendent Khris Thexton said. “School closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have shifted the way communities across the country look at public education, and have widely revealed the fact that children’s wellbeing and success depends on more than just schooling. We’ve had the opportunity to look holistically at the entirety of children’s lives. This pandemic has affected every domain of our lives and in many cases has been traumatic. We recognize that every facet of a child’s life has been disrupted.”
Opening schools “as close to normal as possible will provide familiarity, stability and an optimal learning environment,” he said.
With that in mind, the restart plan includes a section on healthy activities. It states, “Great Bend Public Schools strongly supports the integration of activity programs as well as the value of recess in our schools. We believe that these activities not only promote citizenship and sportsmanship, they are essential to the human experience.”
After-school activities will be open to all USD 428 students, including those who choose remote learning, Thexton said. “If someone’s remote, we can’t have them coming in and out of the building during the day,” he clarified. “But if it’s debate, speech, and that’s after school, they may come in and take part in that.”
It’s too early to know how many students who choose remote learning will want to participate in after-school activities or clubs, he said.
All school events such as assemblies, back-to-school nights, open houses, plays and concerts will be postponed or will be redesigned for an online platform until further notice. The staff will foster creativity and flexibility in scheduling to stagger recess, lunchtime and passing periods to reduce “crowd” size and maximize physical distance.
The district will follow guidelines provided by the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) regarding team sports and activities.
Bands and choirs will practice in person when social distancing can be achieved, but this means playing band instruments and singing during class times may be limited. Additional precautions will be taken to limit or avoid the sharing of items such as sheet music.
KSHSAA recommends indoor practices and rehearsals can be conducted up to a maximum of 25% capacity, with students and staff maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from all sides when not actively rehearsing. When they are actively rehearsing, they should maintain a distance of 10 feet from all sides when possible. Outdoor rehearsals are preferred.
There are also recommendations for covering the bells on instruments with nylon and emptying spit valves onto absorbent sheets such as “puppy pads” away from others, to be appropriately discarded after each rehearsal.
On the playground, students will be kept in groups that remain the same from day to day as much as possible and groups will be assigned designated areas on the playground and/or fields. Students will also be taught and encouraged to participate in touch-free activities.