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Enrollment critical as Kansas parents decide how children will learn this fall

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 4:31 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - As school districts across Kansas finalize decisions on when they’ll start, some are also asking parents to decide how they want their children to learn this fall: either in-person or online.

In order to plan for how many students will take available learning options, districts push for families to enroll their children as soon as they can. Derby, Winfield and Wichita are just three area districts giving options for how they will provide instruction., either physically in the classroom or remotely where the classroom comes to the students at home.

“We thought it was really important to be able to offer flexibility to our families and staff as there are varying comfort levels when it comes to COVID-19,” Derby Public Schools Director of Communications Katie Carlson said.

Wichita Public Schools News and Media Relations Manager Susan Arensman said, unlike the past spring semester, online learning in the fall will keep students busy for a full day of school.

Districts say their goal with remote learning it to make it as comparable to in-person learning as possible.

Winfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nathan Reed said, “It’s going to be part of our plan that remote learners will have as close to the same or similar experience as the in-person learner.”

“Elementary will be able to participate in music and of that sort,” said Arensman. “For high school, they will have different teachers for math, social studies, language arts. It will look a little different but they will still be able to be attached to their school.”

“In a remote learning environment, we would connect students with counselors, social workers and with individualize learning supports they may need, whether that is their special education, English Language Learner support or intervention support,” said Derby Public Schools Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Holly Putnam-Jackson

The Wichita school district said the biggest question from parents is about its third option: it’s “virtual school.”

“If you have a student who is self-motivated and is willing to do the work on their own, they still will have some interaction with teachers, but it won’t be a full day of interaction with teachers,” Arensman said.

Districts say they need enrollment information so they have the different options properly staffed to start the school year and so secondary schools can determine class schedules.

“Whatever option they select, they really need to think about it because we want them to commit to a semester at a time so we’re not flip-flopping and having to readjust our personnel,” Dr. Reed said.

Carlson said, “When you have a high school that has over 2,000 students, scheduling takes a minute to do, so they need time to accommodate these different requests and comfort levels of families.”

Districts are also stressing parents to fill out options for free and reduced lunch, even if their children will be remote.

“Helps them with discounted fees and some other programs,” Arensman said. “We want to make sure they fill that out if they qualify for free and reduce lunches so that they can get those benefits,”

The Derby school district said this is also a way for them to see if students have the resources to learn from home.

“Families who need accessible internet access, we’re able to identify that as part of the enrollment process so that we can reach out to them to ensure that we’re able to get them connected,” said Dr. Putnam-Jackson.

During the Derby School Board meeting July 27, the board approved the purchase of WI-FI hotspots in order for students who need them to have access to the internet.

Districts said parents should also put thought into what option they want to for their child because they will most likely remain in that learning method for the semester.

Wichita is allowing students to switch only during the soft launch, the first week back to school, if needed.

Derby said parents who have already enrolled before the July 27 board meeting have until July 30th at 9 a.m. to request a change.

Districts are encouraging families to complete enrollment online. Enrollment is currently open in Derby and Wichita. Wednesday (July 29) is the last day for in-person enrollment in Wichita. Winfield plans to start the process later this week.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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