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For now, remote learning continues for Wichita middle schoolers, high schoolers

Published: Nov. 8, 2020 at 9:30 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Update Monday, Nov. 9, 2020: After a lengthy discussion about local COVID-19 and its impact on Kansas' largest school district, the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education at its meeting Monday decided to continue with elementary-school students learning in-person and students in the city’s public middle schools and high schools learning remotely, at least until January, through the first two nine weeks of the school year. That motion passed, 5-2.

Previously, the school board had planned to implement a hybrid learning model for middle schoolers and high schoolers, starting this week. A motion to move ahead with the plan to give every student in the district the chance to be in-person at least a couple of times per week failed, 4-3.

While COVID-19 numbers within schools are far lower than the community, the threat from the community spread and other considerations has the district continuing on its current path.

Among the considerations for the decision made Monday, board members said the extra time in the current model gives it time to develop more local gating criteria that continue to look at the community markers, as well as what’s happening in the schools where plans and safeguards are in place to lower the chances of viral spread.

The Wichita School Board will meet Monday night to discuss the partial return of middle and high school students to in-person learning. The blended learning model is set to start on Thursday, but that could change as board members and the district’s COVID-19 taskforce consider the increase in COVID-19 cases in Sedgwick County.

After learning remotely for the first nine weeks of the semester, some middle and high school students in the Wichita School District could return to the classroom this week.

As of right now, the district’s blended learning model is set to start on Thursday, but that could change due to the increase in COVID-19 cases.

“I am super excited,” Payton Benoit, Northwest student, said. “I am a visual learner and a people person. I love being around my classmates and teachers.”

After nine weeks of remote school, Benoit, a sophomore, is excited to possibly return to the class room this week.

“Me, personally, I can’t watch a video or look at a computer for eight hours and understand how to do something,” Benoit said.

On Monday, the Wichita School Board will revisit its decision to start the blended learning model for some middle and high school students this Thursday.

“We are going to be looking at our school data to see where we are with the COVID cases in our schools because the city and county numbers are going way up but we need to see what is happening in our schools and make some decisions because we want to keep kids safe and staff safe, but if we can get kids in school we want to do that,” Wichita BOE President Sheril Logan said.

Right now based on the spread of COVID-19 in Sedgwick County, Wichita schools are in the red zone of its gating criteria which would mean all grade levels move to remote.

But Logan said there are far more factors to consider.

“COVID in the schools is not nearly as high as it is in the community, not by a long way, and we have teachers that are quarantined, but we don’t see the cases themselves in the schools,” Logan said.

The Kansas COVID work group will present new information to the board Monday night to help guide whatever decision they make.

“We are looking very carefully at the mental health side and the social and emotional camaraderie that kids want to have with one another,” Logan said.

Benoit is hopeful to return and said it’s been a difficult nine weeks.

“I think it has caused a lot of anxiety for me and a lot of kids.”

The board will meet Monday at 6 p.m.

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