Andover moving middle school students to full-time, in-person learning

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 9:43 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 11:11 AM CDT
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ANDOVER, Kan. (KWCH) - The Andover Public Schools Board of Education on Monday decided to shift middle school students from a hybrid model to in-person learning on Mondays through Fridays. The shift to in-person learning starts next week (Oct. 19).

The decision comes with a recommendation from the Andover Public Schools COVID Response and Assessment Team (task force) to separate the middle school gating criteria from that used for the high-school level. The task force chose to limit the five-day-per-week, in-person learning option to the middle school level, in large part because there are far more students at the high-school level in the district. Andover elementary-school students already have the option for full-time, in-person learning.

Educators who spoke at Monday night’s school board meeting voiced concerns about an extended hybrid model, saying some students need in-person instruction, citing social and emotional concerns.

The Oct. 19 start date for full, in-person learning for middle-school students falls in the two week period in which the Andover Public Schools COVID-19 task force reviews COVID-19 numbers. Monday night, Andover Public Schools BOE President Jennifer Seymour said the board’s decision Monday night was difficult to reach, but the group is confident with its vote.

“We want to do what is best for our kids right now, and it might now be what we do for the rest fo the school year, but for right now, it is the best decision,” Seymour said. “I feel very confident that our school district and our leaders will allow for some flexibility if we do need to make changes later.”

The COVID-19 task force is set to meet again next Tuesday (Oct. 20). The move to online learning is a relief for families who spoke with Eyewitness News.

“I’m very pleased with the news kids can go back five days a week. I think it will be a much better situation for them for their social and emotional well being,” Andover Middle School parent Kari Coultis said.

Coultis' son, Liam, said he’s struggled with online learning. With that, he’s far from alone.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita Pediatric Neuropsychologist Dr. Kelli Netson-Amore said she’s seeing higher stress levels than usual with students in Wichita.

“We are seeing kids reporting higher levels of anxiety about social issues and school issues. They are not coping well in some cases with the online-school format, and really struggling to get through the day,” Dr. Netson-Amore said.

She said she’s not only seeing higher levels of stress among students, but also more serious reactions.

“I think the schooling situation and the isolation has tapped everyone’s resources, and there’s not a lot left over to deal with the day-to-day stuff they normally would be able to cope with. So they are struggling more with social relationships and disappointments and fights with parents that would typically pass without much issues, but are causing a lot of distress at this point,” Dr. Netson-Amore said.

She said during these challenging times, it’s critical for parents to talk to their children.

“Asking kids frequently if they are okay and talk about how they feel and what is giving them anxiety,” Dr. Netson-Amore said.

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