School board members discuss opening schools

With Kansas districts reopening in a variety of different ways, three school board members Wednesday discussed the unique local challenges of starting the new school year during the pandemic.

Jurdene Coleman, of Manhattan/Ogden USD 383; Miranda Dinkel, Fredonia USD 484 and Dan Patterson, Lakin USD 215, spoke during the KASB Lunch and Learn session on zoom. All three board members are graduates of KASB Leadership for Tomorrow.

Coleman said the shutdown of schools in March because of the COVID-19 emergency accelerated the district’s implementation of getting computer devices in the hands of each student.

She said the pandemic has produced a lot of stress and sometimes board members have been the subject of hurtful comments from members of the community. But she said board members understand that sometimes those words are simply expressions of fear and anxiety associated with the pandemic.

The board recently had a work session facilitated by Gary Sechrist, leadership services field specialist with KASB, to work on ways to alleviate stress associated with the district’s hybrid reopening plan. Coleman said she thought the session was helpful.

In Fredonia, board member Dinkel said students are back in school onsite and observing social distancing, including the use of outside classrooms.

She said remote learning was a challenge because some of the district’s rural families don’t have internet access.

Dinkel also said the board is working hard to retain quality teachers and staff during the pandemic. “It’s a really hard time to be in education, not just for teachers, but for paras and all of our support staff,” Dinkel said.

In Lakin, Patterson said students are back in school. “Remote learning had a drastic negative effect in learning. We need kids in seats; kids need kids in seats,” he said. There is no mask mandate in school, but he said students are voluntarily wearing masks when they aren’t able to socially distance because they understand the consequences of what would happen if they tested positive for COVID-19.

The KASB Lunch and Learn sessions will now be held monthly on the third Wednesday of the month. The next Lunch and Learn is Oct. 21.

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