USD 251 North Lyon County Schools will start the fall semester Aug. 27 with in-person classes after the USD 251 Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt both measures during a special meeting Thursday evening in Americus.
“It’s going to be school as normal other than just a huge amount of safety protocols in place,” Board President Matt Horton said. “We will be following the governor’s orders for masks and social distancing. We are fortunate that our biggest school here in Americus has multiple entry points, and we are going to utilize those for our bus pick-ups to keep younger kids from older kids and try to keep them as ‘pod-oriented’ as possible.”
Older students, Horton said, may have lunch in classrooms to alleviate congestion in the lunch rooms and maintain social distancing.
“That’s the one thing about being a very small district is we’re able to social distance pretty well,” he said.
Parents will have two options during enrollment. The first option is for in-person instruction and the plan has been developed with the assistance and guidance of Lyon County Public Health officials. The level of instruction has been mapped out with various risk levels — in-person (low-risk), in-person hybrid (moderate risk) and in-person remote (high-risk) — that can be adopted throughout the year, depending on how the county is faring during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Horton said students will attend school Monday - Friday as a normal school day during low-risk levels and all students in grades K - 12 will be required to wear masks when social distancing of at least 6-feet cannot be maintained.
The hybrid model would see students attending school 2-3 days per week and learning remotely the rest of the week. Parents would sign a daily log for remote time consisting of 6 hours per day and attendance would be taken daily. The in-person remote learning option would see students distance learning from home 6 hours per day, 5 days per week. Parents would sign a daily log showing 6 hours of school work.
In all remote sections, instruction will be provided by the same USD 251 teachers that instructs each student during in-person classes.
The district will also offer an online remote learning option for families who do not feel in-person classes are a good fit.
This option consists of direct instruction including live teacher lessons, projects and offline assignments from a USD 251 teacher using the Edgenuity online learning curriculum.
“USD 251 has offered an online virtual program for high school students, Edgenuity, for many years,” the district said in a Facebook post. “Students have participated in this program for several reasons, including credit recovery, elective options, and enrichment. The Online option allows K-12 students to be at-home and work self paced for the entire 20-21 school year. Daily attendance will be taken and grades will be distributed. Students will participate a minimum of 30 hours per week (KSDE mandate for funding — 6 hours/day). In addition, students will be required to attend daily live virtual sessions with their assigned teacher. Parents will sign a daily log confirming their child’s participation in school work activities.”
Students participating in the online option would be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities and athletics, unless the student transferred to an out-of-district online or an out-of-district in-person school. At that point, the student would not be eligible to participate in KSHSAA activities this year.
Horton acknowledged there might be some challenges getting students to wear masks, but said it was for the health and safety of their friends, teachers and building staff.
“We’re hoping that through positive reinforce and with parent support we can get them all to mask up and get in the building,” he said. “Then if we can get socially distanced, possibly some time without the masks — but only when social distancing is being follow. Right now, with the governor’s order, we are gonna have to follow it.”
Horton said patrons of the district should feel good knowing that the board came to a unanimous agreement on both the start date for school and the model for which students will receive education.
“I think that was overwhelming through our planning committee,” he said. “We had to have parents, staff members, everybody involved, and I believe that we did that. We had 23 people involved, and I believe every one of them came out feeling comfortable. We all look at things a little differently, but I think as I look at the other issues surrounding children, and the uncertainly right now, I think about how scared us adults are, and the kids are getting the same feelings.
Horton credited a strong reopening committee, the work of former-Superintendent Mike Mathes and new Superintendent Robert Blair for getting the district where it needed to be.
“Mr. Blair has been a great addition into the team, bringing that wisdom of years of experience,” he said. “It’s very important to have an experienced superintendent right now. We were already excited that he came on board and our staff worked to fill him in.”
Horton said it was important to give the kids some sense of normalcy during so many unknowns. A big part of that will be parent involvement.
“I think it’s going to be so important that all of our districts nationwide, state-wide and county-wide, that the parents are involved,” he said. “They need to take responsibility, take their kid to temperature before school. We need to be proactive on this instead of reactive. I think we can have a positive outcome, but it’s going take us all working together to make it happen.”