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Wichita school board votes to start classes after Labor Day

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:27 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update: Thursday, July 24, 2020: The Wichita School Board voted Thursday to delay the start of the school year until after Labor Day. The measure now moves on to the district’s calendar committee which will decide whether students will return to class on Sept. 8 or 9.

The district said it would cost $1.5 million to $2 million daily to pay teachers and building staff beyond their contracts. The calendar committee has now been tasked with meeting state standards for instructional time without going into June.

New teachers will still report Aug. 3 and 4. All teachers will start Aug. 5.

Enrollment is now open for all students online and parents are encouraged to complete the process right away. In-person enrollment takes place July 27-29. If you have more than one student, you can enroll them all at one location instead of needing to visit each school. Parents are also asked to fill out the free and reduced lunch form which is now available on the site. The district said it has over 37,000 who qualify for the federal funding and only 250 forms have been filled out.

The board also approved three learning options for students on Thursday: onsite, myRemote and Education Imagine Academy due to the moderate level of COVID-19 restrictions in place for Wichita and Sedgwick County.

ONSITE LEARNING will include students returning to school with physical bell times and schedule and health safety guidelines, including masks for all K-12 teachers and students. Social distancing will include staggered passing periods, cohort isolation in elementary schools and plans to eliminate large gatherings of students in hallways and common areas in secondary schools.

MySCHOOL REMOTE (K-12) will allow students to enroll in their neighborhood or magnet schools. Technology devices provided to students and they will participate in a full traditional school day online. Daily lessons for elementary school students will include face to face interaction with a teacher. Secondary students will receive daily face to face interaction with teachers for every class period. Attendance will also be taken daily in each course.

EDUCATION IMAGINE ACADEMY (K-12) is a fulltime virtual school. Technology devices would be provided to students. Online course offerings and electives would provide an individualized experience for each student including – flexible timeframe for completion of assignments and the flexibility to work outside of regular school hours. Students will be assessed on the same standards and competencies as they would in a traditional classroom. Online interaction with staff will be based on the student’s learning pace, academic and social, emotional needs. Students could transfer back to their base school assignment at the end of the semester.

FULL REMOTE LEARNING is the model the district said it would shift to if Wichita and Sedgwick County were in the highest level of community restrictions as defined in collaboration with Sedgwick County Health Department. Full remote learning would mimic myRemote learning and include all students if an affected space, a school or the entire district were forced to close for any period of time due to COVID-19. All students Pre-K to grade 12 will receive a technology device this fall, which will help them if the district needs to pivot to full remote learning.

The Wichita School Board will meet next Thursday (July 30) to finalize health and safety elements of the Future Ready Return to School Plan and approve the 2020-2021 calendar.

United Teachers of Wichita is among those supporting the move for the Wichita school district to start after Labor Day.

“We’re incredibly relieved. I know I’m relieved that we’re going to have that time to really slow down and make sure that we have the proper training in place and the safety mitigation measures across the district,” said UTW Vice President Gabriel Costilla.

Eyewitness News Anchor Michael Schwanke sat down with Wichita Public Schools Director of Communications Wendy Johnson Thursday to get a better idea of what teachers, students, and parents can expect with the delayed-start decision, including a more in-depth look at learning options. You can see the full interview, divided into three clips below:

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Wichita Public Schools Board of Education will meet Thursday to finalize its plan for starting the 2020-2021 school year. The board will look at three options: in-person instruction, as well as two virtual-learning options.

The first option is in-person instruction. The second is virtual instruction from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., depending on the grade level. The third option is virtual instruction with flexible hours.

The school district will ask the board to pass the three options and parents will then be asked to decide which option they want for their children. Parents wanting their children to start the year physically in the classroom will be asked to confirm that choice as soon as possible so the district can plan for staffing. Information on how parents need to notify the district should come with Thursday’s school board meeting.

A split vote from the Kansas Board of Education on Wednesday turned down Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s planned executive order to start schools across the state after Labor Day. With the starting date up to individual districts, some parents in USD 259 are pushing the district to start after the early-September holiday as Kelly recommended.

“I really think September, maybe even later,” one Wichita mother said Wednesday. “We’re closing bars down again, there’s more cases than there was even last month, so it just makes me kinda nervous. Like, we can’t go out, we’re limiting gatherings, buy my child is safe to go in a school?

The Wichita school district said the board of education will not likely make a start-date decision at its meeting Thursday.

From the district’s feedback, a majority of parents want kids in the classroom, but some still are hesitant.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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