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Wichita BOE: Prepare for school in classrooms this fall

Published: Jun. 30, 2020 at 8:46 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Prepare for school in classrooms this fall. That’s the message Tuesday from Wichita public school leaders as they present a framework they’re considering for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, starting in August.

The final version of what USD 259 calls its “Future Ready Return to School Plan” is expected in mid-July. What the framework provides is an insight into three options under consideration for educating students in the upcoming school year. The district said for parents and staff, the preference is for students to be back in school buildings come August.

“We want our families, as well as our staff to know that we are preparing for an open campus, an onsite,” said Wichita Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Irving. “Also, that we do have a 100 percent virtual option for our families that may not be ready to return to our onsite. So, we encourage families to look into Education Imagine Academy.”

While telling parents and students to prepare to return to the classroom, USD 259 also has to consider the option of all online, remote learning, or a hybrid of in-person and remote learning.

“That we continue to have other plans in the background, in the event that we need to pivot,” Dr. Irving said.

In surveys of parents and staff, the majority want to see in-person classes when school starts again. Fifty-three percent of parents support this and, the district says, it’s similar for staff.

As USD 259 works to make the return to classroom learning happen, what’s being proposed is a soft launch to the school year to ease students back into going to school each weekday.

“We’ll be focusing on, yes, assessing academic needs, but also provide time to work with our students and support them around (the) social and emotional (aspects),” Dr. Irving said.

If COVID-19 would force the district to pivot, the hybrid model calls for alternating days to limit the number of people in the building. Half of the students would attend in-person classes two days per week and three would be online while the other half would attend classes three days per week and be online for two.

USD 259 said this approach is more supported by parents and staff than just going online. A decision by the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education earlier this month, allowing the district to invest in more technology will make this more feasible for families, district leaders say.

“So important for our board to approve the purchase of devices that we will be able to provide all of our students this fall,” Dr. Irving said.

The district knows no matter what plan is in place when school starts, it will have to adapt to whatever happens with COVID-19.

“What we’ve learned in our planning is that we must be flexible,” Dr. Irving said.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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