Board updated on planning for school year

Meghan Flynn
Members of the class of 2020 for the Garden City Alternative Center and USD 457's Virtual Academy make their way onto the football field at Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning for a graduation ceremony. There were 109 graduates. Garden City High School will hold its commencements on Friday through Sunday, with each academy holding its own ceremony.

The Garden City Board of Education was updated on the planning process for the 2020-21 school year at the board’s regular meeting Monday.

Glenda LaBarbera, assistant superintendent, said three options were developed for student learning — on site, remote and blended.

On-site learning is school as close to normal as it can possibly be, remote learning is virtual school and blended is a mix where a student may come to the school for a few classes, such as orchestra or math, and then do the rest at home.

LaBarbera said they wanted to give parents options and honor their preferences.

“We know that there are parents out there that are terrified of sending their children to school because they don't want them to get COVID-19,” she said. “We know there are other parents that are saying ... can we get them to school really soon? So we wanted to make sure and offer parents choice.”

In addition to the learning options LaBarbera said the planning committee developed a level system, in concert with the Finney County Health Department, to answer some of the what-ifs about how the schools will be run in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Six levels were created, with Level 1 having the fewest restrictions and Level 6 being remote learning.

Level 1 is on-site school as if COVID-19 didn’t exist, with no protective measures or restrictions.

Level 2 is on-site school with basic protective measures.

The protective measures include daily symptomatic screening by teachers; masks recommended (as tolerated) for grades seven through 12 if social distancing is not an option or for grades K-12 at teacher discretion; hand washing encouraged before and after lunch and after recess; small work groups; assigned seating; modified lunch schedules with students eating in classrooms or some students in classrooms and some in the cafeteria; and large group classes to be held outside or socially distanced.

Level 3 is on-site learning with enhanced protective measures and limits on group gatherings.

The protective measures include everything in Level 2, but masks are required (as tolerated) for grades 7-12 if social distancing is not possible or for grades K-6 at teacher discretion due to at-risk students or staff or activity that can’t be socially distanced, and trying to limit the mixing of students as much as possible.

Level 4 is on-site learning with enhanced protective measures, a parent option for remote learning, limits on group gatherings and social distancing requirements.

With Level 4, if there is possible classroom/staff exposure, quarantined students will participate in remote learning following guidance from the health department and all other students will have the option for either on-site or remote learning.

Other protective measures include daily symptomatic screening by teachers; groupings that aren’t face to face, meaning all desks/tables must face the same direction; masks are required (as tolerated) for all grade levels; small groups maintaining 6-foot social distance guidelines; encouragement of hourly hand sanitizing; school libraries are closed; no indoor physical education unless social distancing and the same classroom group can be maintained; no large group activities; school playground equipment is closed; modified lunch schedules; limit touching; and geographic sequestering is possible.

Level 5 is hybrid learning only. Only half of the student population would be on campus at one time, while the other half would be remote.

Students would have a hybrid of on-site learning and remote learning, alternating days when each group is on site.

Other protective measures include everything from Level 4, but masks are required if students and staff are not socially distanced, and desks and tables would be spaced 6 feet apart.

Level 6 is remote learning, like school was for the last nine weeks of the last school year; however, there would be an accountability piece that didn’t exist during continuous learning.

Determination of the levels at each school will be a joint decision with the school administration, district administration and the health department, said USD 457 superintendent Steve Karlin.

Levels could be different at each school or even for each classroom, Karlin said.

LaBarbera doesn’t anticipate beginning the school year at Level 1.

In addition to protective measures for students, safety measures were also discussed for staff operations for transportation, technology, food service, personnel, health services and facilities.

No action was taken on the presentation as it is a draft and a final guide will be presented to the board at its July 27 meeting, with a decision to be made at a special meeting on July 30.

In other business, the board elected a new president, Lara Bors, and vice president, Alex Wallace.