With the first day of school just three weeks away, parents of Great Bend USD 428 students have a decision to make.
Online enrollment remains open, and families are encouraged to enroll by 5 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12. That is also the deadline for those wishing to enroll in the GB Remote Learning Program, said USD 428 Public Information Officer Andrea Bauer.
Parents have the choice of either on-site learning or remote learning with USD 428 supervision.
School officials did not have an estimate Thursday on the number of families that plan to start the school year from home. Bauer said administrators should have that information when the Board of Education meets at 5 p.m. Monday at the District Education Center.
At that meeting, the school board will also be asked to approve the latest School Restart Plan. A draft of this plan was released Monday to reflect recent changes in state-wide requirements and health precautions for reopening schools.
Great Bend Middle School and all five elementary schools were open for on-site enrollment this past Tuesday and Wednesday. Bauer said people are working at the schools now and anyone with enrollment questions will also be able to call their attendance centers.
Teachers who are new to the school district will start their orientation today and all teachers will return on Friday, Aug. 14. The first day of school will be Thursday, Aug. 27. It will be a full day for elementary students, seventh graders at GBMS and freshmen at GBHS, with kindergartners attending for half days for two days. Eighth graders and high school sophomores, juniors and seniors will return to school on Friday, Aug. 28.
The district’s restart plan was rolled out on July 13 but soon needed to be revised after state recommendations changed.
Tuesday at Lincoln Elementary School, Principal Misty Straub said a few families have enrolled in the Remote Learning Program.
“The majority of our kids are coming to our school and our building,” Straub said. “They miss being around each other.” She added, “Parents have a lot of good information and are weighing their options.”
Students who do return to the brick-and-mortar buildings will notice a few changes, from frequent sanitizing to the requirement of wearing masks. The water fountains have been converted to water bottle filling stations and students will bring their own clean water bottles for personal use to school each day. In the classrooms where desks used to be pushed together to form clusters of four or five students, the desks are now apart from each other and students won’t be allowed to shared materials.
The masks will be worn except when students are eating or during recess and physical education class.
Those who choose on-site learning will attend school five days a week in a traditional setting, according to the proposed plan. Physical distance will be maximized where practical and other health safety precautions will be implemented.
Those who choose the remote learning option will still be USD 428 students. Instruction will be provided via an online curriculum, with regular communication between USD 428 staff and the student/parents. The student and parent will be required to sign a daily log confirming the student is engaged in learning for the required 360 minutes (six hours) daily. The student will be supervised by a USD 428 certified teacher.
With either option, the student will be eligible to participate in athletics following Kansas State High School Activities Association guidance.
Targeted health precautions
The following precautions are noted in the draft of the new plan:
• All staff will be required to wear masks in common spaces, when physical distance cannot be maintained. Students will be required to wear a mask.
• No family members or visitors will be allowed past the building office. All visitors will be required to wear a face mask for entry.
• Students will be grouped in cohorts (small, consistent groups) with teachers going to the students when possible and/or practical.
• Maximize physical distance, as each building and classroom is unique in terms of space and infrastructure, social distancing will be flexible, but will be implemented to the fullest practical level.
• Regular hand washing and enhanced hygiene practices will be required, taught, and monitored.
The school board will vote on the final version of the restart plan when it meets Monday, but the draft can be read now on the district website, www.greatbendschools.net. That is also the site for online enrollment.