USD 457 board talks communications plan

Meghan Flynn
The main entrance for Garden City High School is located on the southwest side of the building. Three learning options are available for students this year.

The COVID-19 Communications Plan was discussed at the USD 457 Board of Education’s regular meeting Monday.

Roy Cessna, USD 457 public information coordinator, said weekly reminders will be sent out to families about registering for the district’s three learning options prior to the beginning of the school year.

The three options are on-site, remote and blended, and information on those options is available on the district’s website, social media and news media.

As of Aug. 10, there have been 2,674 students registered. Of that, 2,107 are registered for on-site learning, 430 are registered for remote learning and 137 are registered for blended learning.

The first day of school will be Aug. 31, which will be a half day for the elementary, fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th grade students and students new to the district.

A frequently asked questions page will be available on the district’s website, families will be directed to the page in answering questions about the reopening plan as well as the start of the school year.

The level at which school will start on Aug. 31 will be given Aug. 25 on the district’s website.

Also, through a link on the district’s website, there will be a color coded risk stratification notifying students, staff and parents how to avoid unnecessary contact, Cessna said.

“It is in color and by class and by school. We'll be directing parents to go to that link on the website on the main page so they get that information,” he said. “We'll also be communicating ... an overview of the plan on what will be expected for the start of the school year. It will be in multiple languages and it's a quick over view on where we're at with the plan.”

Parents will also be asked to update their contact information, Cessna said.

“The district needs this contact information so buildings can contact families on any updates as we progress through the school year,” he said.

In other business, the board approved the purchase of the Remind application to help facilitate communication between the school district and families.

USD 457 director of technology Roxie Schafer said that through a survey they found that during continuous learning teachers identified 21 different ways of communicating with students and their families.

Of those 21 methods, email, phone calls and texting were the top three.

They decided to find a better way of facilitating communication and decided on the Remind app, Schafer said.

Remind allows teachers to call or text without teachers having to reveal their phone numbers, allows users to identify their preferred method of communication, doesn’t require families to download an app, replaces the traditional calling tree and can be connected to things like Google Classroom and Zoom.

The biggest perk of Remind is translation, Schafer said.

“It can be translated with the touch of a button to over 90 languages. That's huge,” she said. “Our teachers showed us over and over in the survey that communication/translation was an issue, so this can do it for them.”

The board also approved an amendment to the COVID-19 Plan’s Classroom 2020-21 Operation Levels/Health Services section in regard to mask wearing to be in line with the latest state guidelines.

Glenda LaBarbera, ESC Student Services and assistant superintendent, said the state recommends that all students in K-12 schools, which here is every building including the early childhood center, wear an appropriate mask or face covering.

Changes were made is Levels 2, 3 and 4, LaBarbera said. They changed wherever there was a “kindergarten” to “PK” and they changed the mask range split to either PK-4 instead of 7-12 and PK-6 to PK-4 and then mandatory for 5-12 until Level 4 where it becomes every grade level — PK-12.

Mask wearing for pre-K-4 is still at teacher discretion at the earlier levels, but then at Level 4 masks are mandated for all grade levels PK-12, LaBarbera said.