BOE stands pat on operations, talks more activity tickets

Chad Frey
The Kansan
USD 373

The Newton USD 373 board of education reviewed COVID-19 gating criteria and chose not to make changes to the district mode of operation for education until at least Feb. 12. 

"I have not heard anything negative about the mode of operation right now," said Fred Van Rankin, superintendent of Newton schools. 

The district made a change two weeks ago in how hybrid days were handled. Students are now split into two groups that alternate between three in-school days and two in-school days per week. 

The board learned that the Kansas State High School Activities Association voted to allow up to four spectators per participant, effective Jan. 29. The recommendation to the board will be to follow this change where possible. Some venues will not allow for that number and still enable social distancing.

The AV-CTL is considering options this coming week. For some venues, the recommendation may not be possible.

Newton USD 373 staff is recommending allowing up to four spectators per participant for all seniors at NHS. All other participants will continue to be allowed up to two spectators. Visiting teams would only be allowed up to two spectators per participant.

Cheerleaders, pep band and other participants are viewed the same as team members. 

"That was my concern, in listening to some parents they feel like that not all student activities are being treated the same," said board member Luke Edwards. "I wanted to make sure that if anyone else was being held back, if we were  going to expand tickets for atheles that we were doing that ... for any of our student activities." 

Staff estimates the move would keep most events at or near the 25% capacity mark in the gymnasiums, with gymnasiums cleared between games to avoid overcrowding. 

The board did approve a calendar adjustment, changing Feb. 12 from a school day to a designated parent-teacher conference day. In addition, Feb. 23 is the statewide ACT test day for juniors (and some seniors) funded through the Kansas Department of Education. Originally the suggestion was to go to a remote learning day to accommodate testing at NHS; however, the district does not have enough staff or space to address this need. District administration requested the board approve a districtwide professional development day.