Classes at Winfield Public Schools will begin Sept. 9, with masks required for students receiving in-person instruction, the USD 4654 Board of Education unanimously approved on Monday evening.
Those two measures are among a set of recommendations put together by a task force charged with planning for the upcoming school year in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The “Return to Learn Plan” offers families two options for schooling. The first option is remote-only learning, where students will learn online at home. Parents or caretakers will be responsible for documenting and signing weekly school work logs and submitting them to the school, and students will be assigned a teacher to connect with daily, according to a copy of the plan.
The second option has three different levels of in-person schooling, depending on occupancy restrictions. The first level includes no occupancy restrictions, but encompasses social distancing when possible, health screening questions, scheduled hand washing, temperature checks and masks required for all students, staff and vendors.
The second level includes a hybrid in-person/online class schedule if occupancy restrictions are in place. In this level, half of all students in each building will attend in-person classes Monday and Tuesday, and the other half will attend in person on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be used for cleaning and planning, with some high-risk students in the building. All students will engage in remote learning for the three days they are not in their building.
Level three will include distance learning and working for all staff and students. That level would be instituted in response to a stay-at-home order issued by either the governor of the local health department, said USD 465 Superintendent Nathan Reed, who presented the plan to the board.
The plan also includes information on food service, technology access and extracurricular activities, among other information.
The board also voted to start classes on Sept. 8 for sixth- and ninth-graders, and on Sept. 9 for all other students. Earlier this month, the Kansas State Board of Education had considered mandating the September start date for all students, but voted to leave starting dates up to each district.
Reed said some teachers will be assigned to in-person teaching, and others assigned to teach online. Whichever option families choose, they will be required to stick with it for an entire semester, instead of moving back and forth between options, he said.
The plan states that a student must be enrolled in in-person or remote learning, and be in good standing, to participate in activities. If in-person education is at a level two or three, schedules will be reviewed and health recommendations followed.
Board president Lyle Weinert said he had some trouble accepting the idea that activities could continue if the instruction mode is at a level two or three, and he finds it “ironic” that people can choose virtual learning for safety reasons, yet still feel comfortable participating in school activities.
If a student does get sick, Reed said the district would seek guidance from the City-Cowley County Health Department on how to proceed. According to his previous conversations with the health officer, the infected student would be removed from the class, and the rest of the class monitored for a period of time for any signs of the illness.
Board member Brent Wolf said he’s heard some feedback from the community that offering virtual learning is “taking the easy way out,” but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“In an ideal situation, we want kids to be in school,” Wolf said. “We’re not trying to prevent best practices, but we want to keep the kids safe.”
The board voted 6-0 to accept the recommendations.