Dodge City School District works to make school safer for kids and staff

Dodge City Public Schools
Dodge City Public Schools(KWCH)
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 6:43 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Dodge City students returned to school Tuesday. The district has 7,000 students among the 14 buildings at USD 443. Superintendent Dr. Fred Dierksen says every building needed to make changes before allowing students back.

At Commanche Middle School, the changes begin before students walk in the door. In previous years, students came to the auditorium before school. The cloth seats, however, cannot be wiped down and sanitized. Administrators moved drop-off to the gym.

Lunchrooms across the district underwent changes to maximize space for students while still keeping them safe. At Commanche Middle School, the maintenance staff built plastic partitions between each seat. At lunchtime at in class, students sit facing the same direction. 

Dr. Dierkson says this is the plan for the first day, but things could change. He says it all depends how it goes once classes begin. "We have to be ready to pivot, because not everything we have in place today is going to be there next week, and we will make changes as we see the need for those changes to be made," Dr. Dierksen says. "So I just want our parents to know we're doing the very best we can. We care very much about their children and we care about the safety of our faculty as well as our children, and we will do whatever it takes to provide school to the best of our ability."

The district offered a remote-learning option as well. Out of the 7,000 students in the district, fewer than 350 chose the remote-learning option.

National Beef donated $75,000 dollars to USD 443. The district purchased school supplies and gave them to families who requested them. The district also gave a portion of the donated funds to the early learning centers.

As of the first day of school, Ford County had more than 2,200 cases of COVID-19. The district says some kids are coming back to school after experiencing a loved one's sickness or death. Dr. Dierksen says kids need to be back in class for social and emotional health. "No, it was not easy and it wasn't good for the kids either. And I've spoken to a lot of people and I truly believe in my heart that we need to get back face to face to the best of our ability. So we're going to try that. As long as we can and we hope that's for the rest of the school year."

Half of the families in USD 443 do not speak English as the primary language at home. The district’s translators worked over the summer to get information to all families in different languages. 

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