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Wichita teachers show students what to expect on first day back

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 3:38 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With the new school year less than a month away, parents and students are anxious to see what the year will bring. They know some of the changes students will face, but now the district is providing some clarity on how those changes will be implemented.

As they’re walking into school, many students will see a sign that says “Wear a mask.” Once inside, students at public schools across Wichita will have their temperatures checked and will stop by a hand sanitizer station.

Some of the biggest differences will come in the classroom with an emphasis on social distancing and cleaning. There also will be less traffic in and out of rooms. Some schools are having students stay in one classroom all day and have teachers rotate. Others are having students rotate in passing periods, but will minimize the number of students in the hallways with block scheduling.

“I’m also going to be switching classrooms every period, and so I’ll be rotating with other teachers,” Coleman Middle School teacher Sam Belsan said. “Students will stay in the same room.”

At Wichita Northwest High School, teacher Ann Burgett said there will be passing periods, but students will be asked to walk on one side of the hallway.

At Robinson Middle School, teacher Denise VanHorn said when students come into the classroom, they will clean their desksks before sitting down, and once the class is over, they will clean their desks again and sanitize their hands.

They will do the same thing the next hour,” VanHorn said.

Many Wichita schools also are not allowing students to uses lockers to minimize the amount of time they’ll spend in the hallways. Along with social distancing, seating charts will also be implemented in classrooms so that if there is a positive COVID-19 test in the school, staff will be able to know who exactly came in contact with whoever tested positive.

Elementary schools are in a different situation than middle schools and high schools since students don’t have passing periods and stay in one room for the majority of the day. However, elementary school teachers in Wichita still have made changes they think will keep students safe this fall.

At Cloud Elementary School, changes also start with the way you enter the building. Each student will have an assigned door that they’ll use at the beginning of the day and leave through once they’re dismissed.

Once students are inside the building, they’ll see “One Way” signage in the hallways, keeping students moving in the same direction and not facing one another. Changes in the classroom include spaced-out desks.

“In the past, I’ve had more of a cluster style where students could be closer together in order to collaborate and work together,” Cloud Elementary third-grade teacher Ashley Cavazos said. “So this will be a little different.”

Elementary students will be required to wear masks but will be able to take them off at certain times.

“They will have an opportunity for mask breaks at recess. And I believe recess will be structured in a way that less students are playing at one time and they can be distanced from one another and play without the masks safely,” Cavazos said.

She said while the upcoming year will be an adjustment, starting to teach children proper mask-wearing and handwashing now could help once the first day rolls around on Sept. 8

Schools across Wichita and beyond are still making final decisions and preparations for the upcoming year. School leaders say they will continue updating parents on the near year and what to expect with new plans that could change throughout the year, depending on the case rates of COVID-19.

The Wichita Public Schools Board of Education will meet again next Thursday (Aug. 20) to talk more about starting online or in-person. The board will lean on the Sedgwick County Health Department’s recommendations before making a final decision.

Copyright 2020 KWCH. All rights reserved.

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