USD 253 Superintendent Kevin Case provided a basic timeline for the reopening of district buildings during an online meeting of the Emporia Public Schools Board of Education Wednesday evening.
Case locked in “important” dates at the end of July, the first being on the 22nd when school board meetings will reopen to the public at the Mary Herbert Education Center, with a few restrictions on attendance. The second date Case locked in was the 27th, which should — barring any additional changes to COVID-19 restrictions and procedures at the local or state level — mark the reopening of all school buildings to the public.
“The common thing that I’ll tell you is we don’t have all the specific answers for you tonight,” Case said referring to the 2020-21 academic year at large. “But, our goal with every meeting and every board meeting is to, like with a jigsaw puzzle, build the frame and then start filling in the pieces.”
As with past meetings, Case reiterated that the intention of the Kansas State Department of Education, and USD 253, was to see students back in face-to-face education settings by August. For Emporia schools, the date has been set at August 20, but as to what that could look like still remains a mystery, Case said.
“There are as many districts as there are different philosophies on mass ranging from ‘no’ to ‘yes’ to ‘maybe’ on certain grade levels and certain student populations,” Case said. “One of our processes is that we’re continuing to try to be prepared [to meet standards], but also trying to be flexible”
Case cautioned parents against expecting a fully-comprehensive plan on July 15 — a date which had been targeted in the past — saying most of the specifics regarding individual schools and classes could be expected closer to the beginning of August. Case also did not reject the idea of a possible “hybrid” opening which would mix online learning and face-to-face instructions, if utilized. Higher population schools, such as Emporia High, could also experiment with limiting student populations to half capacity on an alternating, weekly basis.
“We’re going to be impacted [throughout the next academic year] in ways that I don’t even think we have any idea right now …” Case said. “The thing I know is that everyone wants certainty right now, and I also know we’re 56 days away from August 20. I guarantee some of the things I talked about tonight will change. Some could be more restrictive and some could be less restrictive … the main thing I would say to people is that we need to plan for contingencies and embrace the need to be flexible.”
During the meeting, the Emporia Public Schools Board of Education also:
^ Approved the purchase of 171 LTE iPads (including licensing and internet service payments) in the amount of $55,643.40. The iPads will be used in classrooms at the Maynard Early Childhood Education Center
^ Signed a memorandum of understanding with Jobs for America’s Graduates Kansas to pay membership fees in the amount of $22,000 for the continuation of two such programs at Emporia High
^ Approved a $29,994 payment for updates to the district’s VOIP phone system
^ Accepted a grant from the Lifetime Foundation in the potential amount of up to $80,000 over the next three years to be used to assist in the creation of “sustainable change” through the procurement of clean label foods, increased meals cooked from scratch, and the elimination of highly-processed, unhealthy foods from school meals
^ Approved the disposal of the following district technology through online auctions: 31 laptop computers, 10 desktop computers, two projectors, two document cameras, 49 network access points, 36 network switches, one printer, five tablets and three UPS battery backups
^ Accepted a grant from the Learning Tree Institute at Greenbush in the amount of $10,320.00 for the 2019-2020 school year. The funding opportunity is intended to help Kansas school districts and communities provide student meals this summer amidst COVID-19.