USD 409 Board of Education members wear masks and social distance themselves as they convene in public meeting session Wednesday, July 29 in the community room at the BOE Office.

USD 409 officials are planning classes to start Wednesday, Sept. 9 for youth enrolled at Atchison Public Schools.

Staff development is scheduled to commence on Thursday Aug. 27 to allow for extensive training to keep in step with learning requirements, guidelines and whatever might arise in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Board of Education members unanimously approved and accepted the “USD 409” Navigating Change 2020, A Comprehensive Plan for Community Safety and Student Learning, and approved revisions to the 2020-21 schoolyear calendar as presented after some discussions during a special meeting Wednesday, July 29.

Superintendent Renee Scott said the plan will meet the requirement of 1116 hours of learning required by Kansas State Department of Education from the start of school in September to the last day of the school year tentatively planned for Thursday, June 3, 2021.

“Right now time is our enemy,” Scott said of the circumstances. The delay offers time for educators to start preparations and training that will allow for a high level of learning across three platforms of learning offered to pupils and students to meet health, safety and educational needs.

On-site learning – in traditional classroom, Hybrid Learning – comprises partial time in the classroom and some virtual learning and Remote Learning, all virtual, are the learning platform options parents and guardians will have to consider for students enrolled in the Atchison Public School System. However, an increase of COVID-19 cases in the community could possibility interrupt traditional classroom work like what happened in mid-March, which would prompt the move to hybrid or remote learning as the only options. The plan might be subject to modification.

The plan, Scott described as a navigation of uncharted waters, is the result of recommendations and consensus of a 74-person Return To School Committee comprised of parents, educators, community members, school administrators, school facility site-council members, BOE representatives and interested stakeholders. The formation of the RTF Committee was Scott’s brainchild.

With the health and wellness of about 1,800 kids, the goal of RTF and was to get a solid plan in place to determine and recommend their consensus on what is best for the kids, Scott said. It will take everyone to make it work. The preliminary results of parent/guardian surveys have indicated 53.5 percent favored classroom learning. The remaining percentage showed a near even split between the Hybrid and Remote Learning preferences. Each option is a semester long commitment that will require daily assignments completion and participation in assessments of the learning environments

The plan also has hygiene and health guidelines, details about face mask and social distance requirements and eligibility for exemptions. There are explanations and descriptions about the learning platforms in the 24-page document and school calendar that is available for viewing on the district’s website log onto usd409.net.

Board members Sean Crittendon and Stefanie Gardner each have children attending schools in the district.

Gardner said she and her husband have had discussions concerning the learning platforms and what would be the best fit for their family.

Crittendon said he is appreciative there are options for families to consider.

Board Member Dr. John Eplee, M.D. commented about the masks requirement and the other safety and health guidelines that will be in place. He said he expects masks facial covering guidelines to remain in effect until COVID-19 vaccines are available. Eplee said he was comfortable to proceed with the plan and start of school.

Mary Meyers can be reached via mary.meyers@atchisonglobenow.com. Follow her on Twitter:@MARYMEYERSglobe

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