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Wichita School Board approves week-long Thanksgiving break

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 5:19 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Wichita School Board unanimously approved an extended Thanksgiving break for the district on Monday. Students and staff will be out of school from Nov. 23-27. They will return to learning on Nov. 30.

Wichita Public Schools and the school board hopes families will stay close to home and avoid large gatherings over the holiday break. Wichita Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Alicia Thompson said COVID-19 continues to strain resources.

“It’s been a long haul this first nine weeks, so we want to give an opportunity to get the system rebooted and recalibrated so we can begin for the second nine weeks,” said Dr. Thompson.

She said employee COVID-19 positive rates and quarantines are taking resources, and there aren’t enough substitute teachers and workers to fill the void. It’s an issue many other school districts are also facing.

We actually are utilizing a lot of our district-level folks, so anybody that has a teaching certificate at the district level office, we’re out in buildings and we’re out there subbing. That’s what’s happening,” said Dr. Thompson.

The district’s COVID-19 surveillance report currently shows more than 805 active quarantines as of last Friday, about 10 percent of the district’s 7,300 employees. As of Sunday, more than 630 COVID-19 cases have been reported among students and staff since August. That’s why the decision from the board on Monday comes with a caveat regarding Thanksgiving.

“Make the difficult decision to stay home and not to travel and not to attend those large gatherings. I plead for you to do that,” said Dr. Thompson.

The extended break does not mean students will have to go later into the school year. Instead, the district’s last two school days will be used. If there a snow day is needed, the district said it will likely move to remote learning.

The Wichita School Board will consider giving students and staff a week-long Thanksgiving break this year.

According to the USD 259 BOE agenda, the district calendar will be revised so that the fall recess begins on Nov. 23 through Nov. 27. All district schools and support centers will be closed during this time. The three-day break was originally scheduled for Nov. 25-Nov. 27.

“This proposal allows employees and students to have an extended break at the end of a month in which positive COVID cases have risen dramatically in Sedgwick County, local hospitals are at capacity, WPS guest staff fill rates are consistently below the need for substitutes, and WPS employee COVID-positive and quarantine indicators are putting significant strain on functional capacity in the school district,” reads the agenda.

The board will hold a special meeting to discuss the change on Monday, November 16 at noon. It is recommended that the board approve the proposed revisions.

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