Holcomb delays start of school to Sept. 2

Meghan Flynn
Holcomb USD 363 superintendent Scott Myers holds a public discussion with Finney County residents during a September 2019 meeting in Holcomb. The USD 363 school board decided Friday night to delay the start of the 2020-21 school year to Sept. 2.

Holcomb USD 363 held a special meeting July 24 to discuss Gov. Laura Kelly’s two executive orders tied to reopening schools.

One executive order was meant to delay the start of the school year until after Sept. 8 — although the state board of education voted not to accept the order, leaving start date decisions to individual districts — and the other mandates the implementation of such COVID-19 mitigation procedures as face masks, hand sanitizing and temperature checks at schools.

The Holcomb Board of Education voted 6-1 Friday evening to delay the start of the school year until Sept. 2.

Originally, the 2020-21 school year was to begin Aug. 19.

Superintendent Scott Myers said the decision was made so the district could be “fully prepared instructionally and safety wise about all the various details that need to go into play.”

Myers said everything is in flux right now because of the uncertainty of COVID-19 and the executive orders about whether or not the counties or school districts can overrule the orders or not, so they decided to delay to be as prepared for the upcoming school year as possible.

One thing that needs to be worked out further is the remote learning option that the school district is offering this school year.

Myers said it’s not going to be the same as it was at the end of the 2019-20 school year, as expectations are higher internally and from the state.

“We need to make sure that we are as fully prepared as we can be to provide the educational opportunities that are rich,” he said. “I think we've done a really good job given what was thrown at us last year, but now that we're moving to a whole new school year this way it just has to be better prepared.”

Additionally, Myers believes that at some point the entire district might have to engage in remote learning again.

“I think it will hit everybody at some point ... this is going to hit all of the buildings and they need for us to be able to provide the learning opportunities throughout the year,” he said. “That's one of the big reasons for the time (change).”

Besides planning for a return to remote learning, the district is working on safety measures for the buildings for things such as social distancing, food service, cleaning and transportation, Myers said.

This is on top of what the teachers and staff typically do to get ready for the upcoming school year, Myers said.

“The most important thing we can do is keep our kids safe, number one, then after that keep the staff members safe because there's all sorts of details on that too,” he said. “That's what fueled the discussion and led to the decision.”