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USD 428 continues to look at virtual school
usd 428 district office
Great Bend USD 428 District Education Center.

Great Bend USD 428 will apply to the Kansas State Department of Education to start a virtual school in 2022. The school board met Monday and authorized the application, but it is not obligated at this point to start an online school.

Director of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser said the research committee recommends an online school that is open only to Great Bend USD 428 students in grades 6-12. It would be similar to the “GB Remote” option offered to families this year during the pandemic.

Reiser said 250 students started the school year at home via GB Remote but some have since returned to their schools for in-person learning. On Nov. 6, 2020, remote enrollment had dropped to 223 and this month there are 195 remote students. The number of elementary students taking remote classes has dropped from 60 to 46.

“I think parents are realizing that a virtual school or GB Remote is hard,” Reiser said. However, the district sees a need for it as some parents do want that option.

School board member Deanna Essmiller voiced concerns.

“Is that what works best for kids?” she asked. “We’re finding that kids need social interaction. (And) when they show up in your classroom you have eyes on them.”

“We can put some checks and balances in there,” Reiser said.

Assistant Superintendent John Popp said families have asked for a virtual school for years. “We had to refer them to some other virtual program that we are not in control of,” he said.

“A certain percentage of the population has decided they are going to be virtual,” Popp said. “We absolutely believe that kids being in the classroom with a teacher (is the best option).”

Essmiller noted that, ultimately, parents make the decision, just as those who choose homeschooling do.

“This is just the application,” Popp said. “If there are too many hurdles we can always stop and not do it.”

Superintendent Khris Thexton reminded the board that “COVID could still be around (in 2022). We’re looking ahead. It gives us another option.”

Popp said GB Remote is directed by Bill Maddy, the Individual Learning Center (ILC) teacher. The ILC is an alternative school for GBHS students that uses the Edgenuity-brand online program of instruction.

Board member Lori Reneau voiced support for a USD 428 virtual school, saying she is aware of students who have used other virtual programs because the district doesn’t offer one. “I personally think it’s a good idea,” she said.

Fundraiser requests

In other business, the board approved the requests to conduct fundraisers in 2021-2022.

Booster clubs, Parent Teacher Associations and school groups that conduct fundraisers are asked to submit a request to do so each year, Superintendent Thexton said.

“It takes a lot of pressure off of our community, so you aren’t asked to buy cookie dough all of the time,” he said. The administration tries to keep fundraisers from overlapping.

Thexton noted that two groups, Great Bend High School FFA and GBHS Student Council, did not submit applications to conduct fundraisers that they have done in the past. He said groups that were unable to take trips during the pandemic didn’t feel they needed to raise as much money until travel resumes.

Approved fundraisers for 2021-2022:

GBHS Athletic Department - July/August 2021, sale of Panther Cards

GBHS FFA - No application was submitted to sell Yoder meat sticks next year

GBHS Vocal Music - Aug. 25 to Oct. 13, 2021, “Believe” (magazines, food, chocolates and gift items); 2nd week of October 2021, “Believe” (cookie dough)

Riley School - Aug. 27 to Sept. 9, 2021, Red Wheel products

GBHS Band and Orchestra - September 2021, Chili supper tickets (Fall Homecoming, odd years; Madrigals have fundraiser in even years)

Eisenhower PTA - Sept. 9-20, 2021, JT Enterprises (cookie dough, food, gift items). Also considering a color run as a fundraiser

Park School Booster Club - Sept. 20 to Oct. 1, 2021, Red Wheel products

Jefferson PTO - Oct. 1-13, 2021, EMC Butter Braids

GBHS Dance Line - August and September 2021, Sale of GB T-shirts

GBHS Vocal Music - Oct. 13-29, 2021, “Believe” (cookie dough)

GBHS Band and Orchestra - Oct. 21 to Nov. 4, 2021 - Stutzman’s Greenhouse Poinsettias (this is a new fundraiser company)

GBMS Band and Orchestra - Oct. 29 to Nov. 12, 2021, River City Fundraising (magazines, food, chocolates and gift items)

GBHS Kayettes - November 2021 - Sherwood Forest Farms (holly wreaths, centerpieces, etc.)

GBHS Dance Line - November and December, 2022 “Photoshoot” calendars

GBHS Vocal Music (Not until January and February 2023), Hog feed tickets (Winter Homecoming odd years)

Park School Booster Club - Feb. 1-15, 2022 - Fundraiser Favorites (trash bags)

GBHS Student Council - No application was submitted to sell bierocks, pigs in blanket and cinnamon rolls next year

GBHS Band and Orchestra - Feb. 24 to March 6, 2022, Great American Popcorn Co. (various flavors-popcorn sales)

Lincoln PTO - March 6-25, 2022, “Believe” (magazines, food, chocolates, cookie dough and gift items)

GBHS Dance Line - Starting April 13, 2022, Flamingo Flocking

Grants and contributions

The board approved the following contributions and one grant application:

• Sunflower Bank donated funds to six schools for its ABC grade incentive program: Riley Elementary, $463.66; Eisenhower, $478.44; Lincoln, $527.80; Park, $426.12; GBMS, $144.20; GBHS, $1,124.42

• Insurance Planning Inc. contributed $500 to USD 428

• Casey’s Convenience Store Co. donated $3.40 to Lincoln Elementary and $35.20 to Eisenhower Elementary from Casey’s loyalty donation program

• Lincoln received $56.30 from the Boxtop Rewards incentive program

• Kim Heath, GBHS speech and debate instructor, applied for and will accept a $300 technology grant from the National Forensic League to purchase additional technology resources needed due to COVID-19.

Meeting at a glance

Here’s a brief look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting:

• The administration recognized and thanked board members “for the crucial role an elected official plays in our community and schools.” January is School Board Appreciation Month across the State of Kansas. Board members received a pie from Perkin’s and a certificate from the Kansas Association of School Boards.

• Discussion continued on the potential for developing a small virtual school option for USD 428 students in grades 6-12.

• The board heard and accepted an audit report from Danielle Hollingshead, certified public accountant with Adams, Brown. Hollingshead told the board, “We are giving (the district) an unqualified opinion and this is the highest opinion that you can receive.”

• The purchase of 500 Lenova 10e Chromebook tablets at $230 each and 500 Google device management licenses at $24 each was approved for a total of $127,000. This is part of the three-year rotation cycle for Chromebooks to maintain up-to-date technology for staff and students. This purchase was for K-1 student use.

• The board had its first reading of recommended policy revisions. The revisions will come to the board for a second reading and recommended approval at a subsequent meeting.

• The list of fundraiser requests for 2021-2022 was approved.

• A resolution was approved to elect officers in July.

The Senate Bill 130 law passed in April 2019 changed the month that school boards elect the board president and vice president to January instead of July. USD 428 chose to extend the term of the current president and vice president for the remainder of the current school year and, with the adoption of this resolution, elect new officers at the July organizational meeting. 

• Another resolution was approved to extend the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. FFCRA provided paid employee leave for the virus but it expired Dec. 31, 2020. This resolution extends FFCRA provisions through the end of the 2020-2021 school year unless the board rescinds the resolution earlier.

• The board approved hiring Patricia Holaday to teach special education at Eisenhower Elementary School.

• The Superintendent’s Report topics were USD 428 Education Foundation Mini-grants; Interest-Based Bargaining; project updates; COVID-19 update; and approval of grants and contributions.