Students in USD 257 will start classes Aug. 24, district officials announced Friday.
That’s a bit of a delay from the planned start date of Aug. 19, after the coronavirus pandemic and political infighting at the state level threw several curveballs at schools as they try to figure out how to reopen.
Students will enroll Aug. 4-6, and parents will be asked to say if they prefer in-person or online learning, to help the district better prepare for the coming year.
Gov. Laura Kelly initially wanted to delay the start of the school year until after Labor Day, giving districts more time to plan. The state’s coronavirus cases have surged in recent weeks, with 25,109 positive cases reported as of Friday, an increase of 1,006 from Wednesday. Eleven cases have been reported in Allen County.
The Kansas Board of Education overturned Kelly’s executive order earlier this week and will allow school districts to open whenever they choose. Most were scheduled to start classes in mid-August, but now must decide whether to stick with that plan or wait until later.
USD 257 Superintendent Stacey Fager said the district has reworked its calendar to give teachers a little more preparation time.
Students in preschool through fifth grade, and ninth graders, will start classes on Aug. 24. Students in grades 6-8 and 10-12 will start on Aug. 25.
The district continues to finalize plans for its reopening, but released a document online that outlines numerous safety recommendations to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19.
The plan describes protective measures to be taken in the classroom, personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting procedures, and what to do if a staff member or
student becomes sick.
“The goal is to partner with families to develop the best educational delivery plan for students during this pandemic,” the recommendations read.
AMONG THE safety measures, students and staff will be required to wear a mask during the school day. The district has purchased masks for students, but they can wear their own mask. The mask requirement will be reevaluated once the governor’s executive order is lifted.
However, confusion remains around the mask requirement, as Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he believes districts can exempt themselves from the requirement.
Students will follow social distancing practices as much as possible, and schedules will be staggered to minimize large gatherings.
That includes during arrival and dismissal times, and at lunch. Some students may eat in classrooms or in places other than the cafeteria.
Parents are asked to drive students to school if possible, to avoid large numbers on buses. Drop off students as close to the start of school as possible.
Students are asked to socially distance when they arrive, and to use hand sanitizer as they enter the building and classrooms.
Each student will have their temperature taken when they arrive each morning.
Students will wash hands frequently throughout the day.
Community supplies like pencils, calculators, lab and physical education equipment will be limited.
Students likely will go outside for activities when possible and weather permitting, such as for physical education, band, choir and other activities.
Staff also will be asked to follow strict disinfection protocols.
THE NEW procedures will be taught to students on the first day of school and throughout the week. Parents are asked to reinforce those lessons.
If a student or staff member gets sick, the school nurse will determine if the symptoms are similar to COVID-19 or more likely a common cold or flu. If the nurse determines the symptoms may be COVID-19 related, the student or staff member will be separated from others. The student’s parent will be asked to pick up the student, and asked not to return until fever free for three days, or 10 days since symptoms first appeared, or if cleared by a doctor.
All staff and students in close contact with the student (with 6 feet of radius for 10 minutes or longer) will be asked to stay home for 14 days.
THE SCHOOL district will adhere to recommendations from the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department and CDC when it comes to extracurricular activities. Guidelines from the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) also will play a role in determining when, or if, those activities will occur.
“We understand … some if not all, of those opportunities may be limited in the extent in which they can be provided,” the district’s plan reads.
In short, much of that planning remains up in the air.
KSHSAA has put off announcing when fall sports practices will begin, but has put forth guidelines for specific activities.
Among the measures:
— Volleyball teams will be discouraged from attending tournaments, with specific competitions limited to a handful of schools at the same venue.
— Athletes will be advised to wear protective masks while in the facility, but will not have to wear them while participating.
— Social distancing, sanitizing and players using their own individual water bottles also will be mandated.
— Other traditional activities, such as pregame and postgame handshakes, will be prohibited.
— Football timeouts will be extended from 1 minute to 2 minutes each to allow players more time to hydrate.