Teacher Issues

Watson encourages schools to work toward in-person learning

Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson on Friday told school board members their goal should be to have students receive as much in-person learning as possible during the school year.  Watson urged districts to use as many personnel as possible as teachers and reach out in their communities for alternative classroom sites so that more students can be taught in-person while observing precautions such as wearing masks and socially distancing.  As districts across Kansas reopened schools in a variety of ways to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Watson acknowledged there is a lot of frustration among students, parents, teachers, administrators and school...

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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...

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Starting Anew: For Basehor-Linwood flexibility is key to planning

One recent morning, Basehor-Linwood USD 458 school board President Dayna Miller went to her mailbox and was surprised to see several people in the driveway who wanted to talk with her about reopening school.  She said the conversation was cordial, but Miller said the incident, combined with the deluge of texts and emails she received over the summer, exemplified how the start of this school year has brought out people’s passions like no other issue she has experienced during her 17 years of service on the school board.  “This affects your community, parents and grandparents. This was a big decision and...

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Event to focus on early childhood education during pandemic

A national lineup of educators, including Kansas’ National Teacher of the Year Tabatha Rosproy, will conduct a conversation on changes in early childhood education during the COVID-19 health crisis. “Early Efforts: Ensuring Developmentally Appropriate Practice Amidst a Global Pandemic” will be held online at 7 p.m. Thur. Oct. 8. The Hunt Institute, National Association for the Education of Young Children, American Association of School Administrators, and Council of the Chief State School Officers have joined forces to examine the challenges faced by early childhood educators. In addition to Rosproy, an early childhood teacher with Winfield USD 465, the event will feature Dr....

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Pandemic pivoting: September School Board Review covers how districts have shifted

The September issue of School Board Review reports how district leaders spent the summer analyzing data, meeting with the public and working through unprecedented challenges as schools started a new school year during the current COVID-19 health emergency. KASB President Lori Blake writes about how districts have been forced to pivot time and time again as circumstances change and KASB Executive Director John Heim urges Kansans to allow some grace for education leaders who are dealing with unprecedented change. The issue also introduces Jason Winbolt, vice president of the Springhill USD 230 school board, as the endorsed candidate for KASB president-elect...

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Starting Anew: Hesston looked to community partners for additional space

In Hesston USD 460, school leaders heard loud and clear from many community members that when the new school year started they wanted students back in the classroom. But to manage that while observing social distancing and cleaning requirements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was soon apparent more space was needed for the 820 students who attend school in three buildings in the district, which is located about 35 miles north of Wichita. So, districts officials started looking off campus. Now, some Hesston students are attending classes at the Cross Wind Conference Center outside of town. And if the COVID-19 infection...

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School issues before legislative interim committees this week

Several interim legislative committees meeting this week are discussing issues that could have an impact on school districts.  Today and tomorrow (Tue. and Wed. Sept. 22-23), the Special Committee on Foster Care Oversight continues its study of the child welfare system, with presentations Tuesday afternoon on barriers to inter-agency communications in child welfare, including Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis, among others. Sharing education records for children in foster care has been a long-stranding issue. Here is a link to the full agenda.  Today through Thursday (Sept. 22-24), the Special Committee on the Kansas Emergency Management Act meets for presentations and development of...

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Starting Anew: Wabaunsee USD 329 reopening promotes safe onsite learning but ready to pivot if necessary

The Wabaunsee USD 329 school district is situated in the Flint Hills just west of Topeka.   The rural district of about 450 students has been relatively lightly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its five schools were able to open as planned in mid-August with nearly all children attending in person. Look beyond the pastoral setting and the smiles of students on the playground, though, and you’ll find USD 329’s reopening was the result of months of intense planning by Board of Education members, administrators, teachers and staff to respond to the continuing uncertainties presented by the pandemic while...

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Starting Anew: Maize USD 266 starts school with T4T hybrid plan

When Maize USD 266 students returned to school this week, they found a hybrid system of in-person and remote learning that was put together by more than 120 people to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers, administrators, counselors, nurses, support staff and others brainstormed over the summer, surveyed parents and overhauled school operations to keep everyone as safe as possible in this Sedgwick County district of more than 7,800 students. Then more staff were recruited to critically review those plans, which produced further tweaks. The product approved by the school board after numerous meetings and input from hundreds will have pre-K through...

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SPARK Task Force prioritizing immediate needs

The Kansas SPARK (Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas) Task Force met Wednesday to summarize recent spending and discuss priorities for roughly $300 million in Kansas CARES Act funding.  The task force is charged with overseeing expenditures of just over $1 billion in federal CARES Act stimulus funding provided by Congress to help states compensate for the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless Congress takes action, CARES Act money must be spent by the end of December. Round 1 of the Task Force’s work committed $400 million to Kansas counties; Round 2 directed just over $300 million to connectivity, economic development,...

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