Starting Anew: For Basehor-Linwood flexibility is key to planningScott Rothschild
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 we wanted to make sure everyone was heard. That is my job, is to listen,” said Miller, who is a former KASB president.
A fast-growing district of 2,500 students in southern Leavenworth County, Basehor-Linwood started the school year Sept. 8 with a Modified On-Site learning plan.
Under the plan, elementary students attend school onsite Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; middle school and high school students attend two days a week and learn remotely two days a week. On Wednesdays, all students are remote learners. Like most districts during the pandemic, officials are closely watching county health department data on the number and percentage of positive COVID-19 tests and ready to pivot to all in-person or all-remote.
Getting to this plan required months of work, long meetings and discussions that included board members, parents, teachers and administrators.
Superintendent David Howard said the district started with the foundation that academics would be paramount. When schools closed in March, some districts decided that students would not see their grades reduced during remote learning in order to alleviate the stress from the unprecedented shutdown.
But Basehor-Linwood chose a different path. “We didn’t ever tell families that their students’ grades didn’t matter. We moved on as if they were in class,” Miller said.
In forming the plan to reopen school, Howard said he learned everyone has to be flexible. “If there is anything we have learned from all of this, things change.”
Howard joked there are a lot of medical experts on Facebook and that when it appeared the board was headed in one direction, detractors would appear, and then when it looked like the board was heading another way, then another group of detractors would arise. And while there was a lot of public discussion, once the board decided on a plan, Howard said there was “crickets.”
Miller and Howard also said delaying the start of school until after Labor Day helped teachers have time to work in their classrooms.
Most educators agree the reopening of schools has produced some of the toughest decisions for superintendents, school boards and teachers.
Miller said the board has tried to listen to all the public concerns, balance the needs of stakeholders while always remembering “our job is to do what what is best for kids.”
On Sept. 14, during the first school board meeting after the start of school, Howard the district’s approach to opening “seems to be working very well.”