USD 373 educational mode unchanged for remainder of semester

Chad Frey
The Kansan
USD 373

The Newton USD 373 Board of Education chose Monday to keep schools in the current mode through Jan. 21, the end of the first semester. However, things will change when the second term begins Jan. 25. 

Grades pre-K through six will be in buildings all day every day. Grades seven through 12 wll be in a hybrid mode — in school two days a week and attending online three days a week. 

Things will change at semester, when the district will no longer use color designations to determine learning modes. The plan is to stay in the current mode of operation. 

"What we have heard is, 'We want consistency, we don't want to be switching based on the color,' " VanRankin said. "We want to get kids in schools more. ... What we have come up with is from here, until at least Feb. 12, we are going with K-6 in school every day. Seven through 12 will be in a hybrid model, but it will be a little different type of a hybrid schedule."

Students currently enrolled in remote-only school will stay in remote only. 

As of Jan. 25 there will no longer be a "remote Wednesday."

Students will be in attendance daily on a hybrid A and B rotation. One week, group A would be on site three days with group B on site two days. The following week, group A would be on site two days and group B three days. 

The calendar will be adjusted for short weeks and inclement weather days. 

School district administration will continue to update gating criteria — and look closely at numbers from within the district. 

"You don't want to bet on anything," Van Rankin said. "I can see this being a long term method of operation. ... This could be until the end of the first nine weeks, but, I will reiterate, don't hold us to that. If things change, one way or the other, the board will make decisions based on that."

Of concern is whether there is spread within school buildings, which the district has seen this fall. 

'We have had transmission in the schools — five cases of it," VanRankin said. "Our school nurses have done a good job of containing that."

VanRankin said that if there was "significant" spread within buildings, the district could move students to a remote-only mode. 

In other business Monday, the board:

• Elected Mallory Morton as president and Melissa Schreiber as vice president of the board of education. 

• Approved the hiring of a full-time nurse for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year and for the 2021-22 school year.

• Appoved approve extending the FFCRA emergency paid sick leave through May 31 for district staff.