Pandemic shutters K-12 schools

Many questions still are unanswered as to how educators will continue teaching classes now that all of the K-12 schools in the state have closed. Gov. Laura Kelly ordered the closures amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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Local News

March 18, 2020 - 10:50 AM

Gov. Laura Kelly Photo by Kansas Press Association

School faculty, students and parents are wrapping their heads around Tuesday afternoon’s announcement that K-12 schools across Kansas will be closed for the rest of the semester. 

Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement means that while students will not report to school, their education will continue in some fashion. 

How that will happen remains to be seen. It could mean online classes, though not every student may have access to a computer or the internet. 

It could mean picking up lesson plans for learning at home. 

It could mean allowing very small groups — 10 or fewer — to meet with teachers if necessary.

The cancellation of classes and mass gatherings also means a suspension of activities and events like proms, senior trips, educational learning workshops and likely even graduation ceremonies. 

USD 257 Superintendent Stacey Fager said he plans to spend next week working with building administrators and teachers to develop a plan for the rest of the year.

“This is uncharted water,” Fager said. “The district is committed to creating a learning opportunity for our students for the rest of the semester.”

Teachers will report to work on Monday to begin the planning process which they hope to have solidified by March 30.

“We’ll start work on Monday with our faculty and staff on creating that process for them, and roll that out for our patrons, parents and students. We’ll figure this out,” Fager said.

The district likely will look to the state for guidance on how to help all students get access to computers and internet services. All Iola High School students have an assigned Chromebook they can take home, but elementary and middle school students share Chromebooks. Between 20 and 30 percent of all students lack internet access. And though school buildings and the Iola Public Library may be closed, Wi-Fi “hot spot” service extends outside the buildings so a student could sit outside and use the internet.

“These are things we’re going to have to work through,” Fager said.

Fager said he’s received several emails from patrons since the news broke Tuesday afternoon. Most have been positive, though there is a lot of uncertainty about the future.

Fager is the parent of an IHS senior, and said most seniors “don’t really know how to take it except it is what it is.

“I think obviously there’s a lot of disappointment about prom and graduation, but we’re playing it by ear right now. We’ll look to other districts and the state for suggestions and see what happens.”

LOCAL DISTRICTS likely will try to offer some sort of meal option for students, similar to the summer meals program.

Fager said he doesn’t yet know what the plan will be for USD 257, but hopes to offer some sort of option, acknowledging that many families rely on the district’s breakfast and lunch programs to supply their children’s primary nutritional needs.

Humboldt schools announced plans to offer breakfast and lunch for students, and also will meet next week to develop a plan for students. 

“This will place tremendous hardship on our families and staff, and impact the social and emotional well-being of our students,” USD 258 Superintendent Kay Lewis said in a statement.

Humboldt will offer pre-made “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches Monday through Friday for children age 1 to 18 starting with lunch March 23. Children must be present  for curbside pickup at one of the following locations:

Faith Assembly of God Church, 1019 N. 9th St.

Humboldt Swimming Pool, 801 Indiana

Humboldt High School cafeteria door

Neosho River Park, 901 1000th Road

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