USD 457 board: Face-to-face learning necessary

Meghan Flynn
John Wiese speaks at the USD 457 Board of Education meeting Monday in favor of the school district approving a revision to the Athletics and Activities Level 6 Protective Measures at Garden City High School's auditorium. The board declined the changes.

The Garden City Unified School District 457 Board of Education did not pass a revision to the Athletics and Activities Level 6 Protective Measures at the board’s regular meeting Monday.

While the board declined the revisions with a 1-4 vote, with board member Jennifer Standley as the only “yes” vote, they did agree on the need to get students back into the classroom before resuming athletics.

The board agreed to revisit making changes to the Athletics and Activities Level 6 Protective Measures at its next meeting on Dec. 17, but the board also needs to discuss getting students back into the classroom at the same time.

Board member Tim Hanigan said that even though the board has agreed to discuss the topic again, he doesn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up that the members will come to a different decision.

“I get that we want to really get to something for the kids as quick as we can, but I think we need to figure out what is our criteria, each of us, to get the votes that we need?” he said.

Standley said she hoped approving the revision would allow discussion about getting students back to face-to-face learning.

“I still believe you find data where you look for it and I agree that our hospitals are struggling and the numbers are there and people l are sick, but the data is there that our kids are struggling, and yes, some of that data comes from before COVID, but it still stands that when kids are not in school there are higher risks for other things,” she said.

Students are struggling in remote learning, Standley said, and as a board member she represents not only the USD 457 Board of Education but also the students, parents and teachers, and she believes getting everyone back into the classroom safely is necessary for their mental health and emotional well-being.

“Every year at the calendar committee meeting I am told we need to have our kids in class as many days as possible because not all kids have a supporting and safe environment at home,” she said. “I've been contacted by numerous parents who are home full time to support their kids and even these kids are struggling. Can you imagine how the kids with no support are faring?”

USD 457 superintendent Steve Karlin said the district’s goal has always been to have all students back to face-to-face learning as normally as possible.

“It really is the data that has driven us (to) the point that we’re at,” he said. “But we certainly agreed the priority is to get kids back into school.”

Community members spoke during the public comment section of the meeting. While many spoke in favor of the athletics and activities revision, getting students back into the classroom was also heavily pressed.

James Davis said students needs to get back into schools because since the district went to fully remote learning absenteeism has gone up, and as a parent with two children, he said they are exhausted at the end of every day trying to deal with learning online.

“From the idea of learning, I can tell you for sure that’s (not happening),” he said. “They need to be in school, they need education, they need to be with their peers.”

Honey Coash agreed and said remote learning is detrimental to students’ development.

“They need school, they need their teachers, they need their peers and when it boils down to it, I feel that their risk of declining mental health ... are going to have long-lasting effects on them, are extremely more important than a virus that is not really affecting them right now physically,” she said.