Schooling to continue even as buildings close

Kansas schools were closed statewide for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year on Tuesday by Gov. Laura Kelly.


While the facilities will be closed, USD 457 superintendent Steve Karline said education of students will continue.


“The closure of school facilities is not the same as a complete school closure,” he said. “The Kansas State Department of Education expects that students will continue learning during the time that full-time, traditional, in-person classes are unavailable.”


School districts need to take two steps in order to be granted a waiver of the 1,116 hour attendance requirement during the closure, Karlin said.


First, they need to create, submit and have approved a plan for continuous learning with the Kansas State Department of Education.


Second, they need to continue the employment of all current school employees for the remainder of the school year.


Karlin said the school district staff members have been working on contingency plans since mid-March, in the event that schools were closed, to meet the “ongoing learning needs of our students.”


Employees will return to work on March 23, and during the week, professional staff will work on developing specific plans for delivering instruction and using the continuous learning guidelines provided by KSDE, Karlin said.


Sarah Wise, a seventh-grade English teacher at Kenneth Henderson Middle School, has been appointed to the state task force working on the continuous learning guidelines.


It’s anticipated that students will begin participating in at-home learning activities on March 30 and will continue to do so through May 21, the end of the regular school calendar, Karlin said.


“We have an exceptionally talented team of employees that do an outstanding job every day to meet our mission in providing a high quality education for our children to help make them productive and responsible citizens,” he said.


Scott Myers, superintendent of USD 363, said Holcomb staff will also return to school next week to “utilize the resources being developed by KSDE and the teachers who have been put together to help provide the opportunities for continuous learning to take place throughout the remainder of our school year as well.”


A variety of methods will be used, Myers said, including online learning resources and packets.


Events for the 2019-20 senior class have been postponed at this time, Karlin said.


District leaders, school leaders and the Board of Education are working together on other critical issues, Karlin said.


“We understand that this closure will place tremendous hardship on our families and staff and may impact the social and emotional well-being of our students,” he said. “We are committed to working together within the school district, and also with our community, to support one another through these unprecedented times.”


Myers agrees.


“We want to assure anyone and everyone that we will get through this as a greater educational community,” he said.


The school district will provide grab-and-go meals to students beginning on March 23, Karlin said. Each grab-and-go meal will consist of one breakfast and one lunch and will be free to any child age 18 and under.


Details on times and sites will be sent out Friday.


The Holcomb district will conduct its lunch program similar to Garden City’s. Details will follow soon.


Karlin said the situation continues to change rapidly and the district’s goal is to provide the best instructional experience to students to finish out the school year and continue to communicate with families.


“Updated information may come form your child's school or teacher through school or district social media or from the district website, gckschools.com,” he said.


Karlin said Garden City Board of Education is investigating how to conduct its regular monthly meetings.


“We will likely be employing some level of technology to live-stream those meetings and potentially connect people to the meetings via Zoom, but we're still clarifying ... exactly what the best approach will be,” he said. “Likely we'll try to keep our same schedule, but they will likely operate a little differently while we're still dealing with this.”


Currently the Board of Education meetings are live-streamed on the Garden City High School Buffaloes YouTube channel, said Roy Cessna, Educational Support Center public information coordinator.


“We’ll work to send out the link during the board meetings, before they start, so the people know that it’s live and they can watch it live,” he said. “We'll put a link (on the district website) on there as well.”


Myers said they are also investigating how to conduct and share board meetings with the public. They will also likely be utilizing different technologies.


“We have not in the past streamed our meetings, but that doesn't mean we won't now,” he said. “We will be providing opportunities for people to take part if you will on the meetings. We just have not had those discussions yet.”