Maize school district split on decision to return more students to classroom

Published: Jan. 28, 2021 at 9:33 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Should students go back to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s a widely-debated top at school districts across Kansas. This week, the Maize Board of Education voted to have students at the middle schools and high schools in the classroom for at least four days per week, starting later next month. Full-time remote learning will continue to be an option for students and families who have made that choice.

“To make a decision to put more students in a building was very difficult for me said Maize school board member Heather Killpatrick O’Connor of learning in the classroom going back in session for Maize students in sixth through 12th grades. In-person learning has already been the norm for the district’s elementary schools. The Maize school board voted 4-3 in favor of the return to in-person learning for the district’s middle schools and high schools.

One of the topics discussed at the board’s meeting was getting vaccines in teachers’ arms before returning the older students to in-person learning for most of the week.

“What can we do today to make teachers and kids safer in the classroom? Because we don’t know when we are going to get our shots,” Killpatrick O’Connor said.

Maize parent Kerry Fellows said she has been doing research on data to present to the school board in hopes of the decision they ultimately made.

“This topic has really divided our district into ‘it’s safe,’ or ‘it’s not safe,’ and, ‘if you are on the other side, you are wrong,’” Fellows said.

Killpatrick O’Connor said the pandemic has impacted teachers, students and parents, and knows that not everyone agrees with the board’s decision on sending more students back to the classroom for more days.

“When I looked at everything, I looked at CDC guidelines and Sedgwick County. Our numbers were trending downwards,” she said.

Kilpatrick O’Connor said she couldn’t continue “to ignore the fact that we were in a crisis in another way,” which includes academics and social and emotional health of the students.

Fellows agrees.

“Now is the time to get these kids back in school,” she said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the three members who voted against the in-person plan for middle schools and high schools, but as of Thursday night, had not heard back.

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