Teachers and administrators across the country are entering uncharted territory heading into the 2020-21 school year as they try to adapt on the fly to several unknowns.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers in USD 413 were forced to find a way to teach students in a virtual environment to end the 2019-20 school year, and the district still provided meals to kids for breakfast and lunch.
Following Governor Laura Kelly’s signing of executive order No. 20-58, which effectively delays the school year until after Labor Day, administrators are still struggling to find out what the new school year will look like.
USD 413 Superintendent Dr. Kellen Adams reiterated on Tuesday via the district’s website that instruction will take place this school year, whether or not the Kansas State Board of Education chooses to approve or go against Gov. Kelly’s order.
“What’s clear this week is that teachers will create lessons and teach, and students will be expected to complete work at school or in a remote environment for the 1,116 hours of instruction time that comprise the school year per the state Board of Education,” Adams said.
Last week, the KSBE issued its guidelines to the state’s school districts about how to educate children, which includes options for on-site learning, a hybrid learning system, and remote learning.
“School districts in Kansas vary from less than 100 students on the western side of the state to more than 49,000 at Wichita or 30,000 at Olathe,” Adams said. “One plan will not fit all. Likewise, the coronavirus has spread rapidly in some areas of the state and not in others. School districts need to be able to move from one plan to another based on the spread of COVID-19 and its impact in the local community.”
The KSBE said that regardless of the learning environment, the rigor and accountability must be maintained throughout the school year.
Adams said that Assistant Superintendent Tracy Russell will be leading the instructional committee that will address educational plans for students Pre-K through 12th.
Adams will oversee the operations committee that will address logistics and safety in the areas of health, classrooms, common spaces, and transitions from one space to another, extra- and co-curricular activities, facilities, food service and transportation.
Assistant Superintendent Matt Koester will act as the interim principal at Chanute High School.
Over the coming six weeks, the district will be working with the Neosho County Health Department to devise the safest plan for the upcoming school year.
“There are thousands of unanswered questions to be addressed over the next several weeks, with regulations on masks, classroom sizes, lockers, how to transport students and feed everyone while maintaining social distance requirements being just a few examples,” Adams said. “Patience is appreciated. As we work through the educational and safety operations plans, information will be shared with parents and the public.”
KSBE will decide whether or not to follow Gov. Kelly’s executive order later this week, although during her press conference she said that if they voted against it, it would only be delaying school year even further.
Following KSBE’s decision, the Kansas State High School Activities Association will announce its plans for the upcoming year. A decision was expected as early as Tuesday, but that has since been delayed.