Story updated July 29, 2020 with more information on continuous learning, reopening and early release.

Wamego, July 28, 2020 – USD 320, Wamego, schools will open the first week of September.

The board made the decision at a special meeting held tonight.

Transition day for sixth and ninth grade students will be Wednesday, Sept. 2 with the first through fifth grades and 10th through 12 grades beginning the following day.

Kindergarten parent-teacher conferences will be held Sept. 2, 3, and 4, with preschoolers and kindergartners starting school Sept. 8.

“This allows us three full weeks for planning,” said Superintendent Tim Winter in presenting the calendar to the board. “We are going to move to a competency based model and teachers and building leaders need time to review. We also need time to make sure we have all safety preventions in our buildings – partitions, sneeze guards, hand sanitizer, etc.”

The calendar change will also shift the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week back to student contact days.

Competency Based Learning

“Competency Based Learning doesn't depend so much on a student being in front of a teacher,” said Kale Katt, WHS principal. “It can go at the drop of a hat to hybrid or remote.

“Often accountability is on seat time,” he continued, “where students are issued a grade that's sometimes not reflective of what they did or didn't learn. Competency changes that approach.”

He explained there was a rubric with performance indicators. “When a student demonstrates mastery, we have evidence of it,” he said. “We have proof that a kid learned. The idea of seat time going a way is a different approach, a good thing, a more personal approach that's very student centered. One of the benefits we learned with the Continuous Learning Plan, how importance it was for the student to have a voice. This really taps into what we learned in the spring.”

Katt said it was not a “huge, huge, huge shift” because the teachers were already familiar with the standards.

“KSDE (Kansas Department of Education) has laid the groundwork,” he said. “But a shift like this isn't a one week, two week, three week thing. We'll be OK with this at the end of this year. Next year we'll be pretty good. The third year, really, really good. It's long term.”

He added this will be a good shift.

“We are holding students and teachers accountable,” he said. “Not holding students who may be ready to move on back. It's more fluid, more personalized. It will be a very, very good thing for us.”

The shift will require the district to change to Fast Bridge, a new software system, and one of the reasons for the requested delay in opening.

Reopening Options

Winter also presented the two options families will have for returning to school – Option 1, which is full on-site learning, and Option 2, remote learning. Enrollment, which is expected to be available on Aug. 3, will have an opportunity for families to choose an option.

“These are choices we give families to make,” he said, “but we hope to get as many kids in our buildings as we safely can.”

For those students who will be on site, they, along with the faculty and staff, will be subject to a mask requirement, with some exceptions, including school buses. Families will also be asked to provide their own masks.

“(This is) one thing that's important to community members,” Winter said. “Mask requirements. We will require masks for all students and staff and to social distance as much as we possibly can. We won't be able to in all situations. We are also putting other health measures in place. We want everything to as safe as possible.”

The student experience will be as close to normal as possible, and include interaction with classmates and teachers in as safe a manner as possible, along with five-day, in-person instruction. Activities will follow KSHSAA mandates.

A few other measures include a cancellation of the shuttle bus service and closing school lunch for all high school students.

There were caveats for the remote learning.

“I think it's really important that parents understand if they pick remote learning it will be much more extensive that what took place for continuous learning (in the spring),” said Amy Flinn, West Elementary principal. “There will be a full six hour day and it's important everyone knows that. Whether it's just a few families or a full on massive outbreak and all goes on line, it will not look like continuous learning.”

Students talking the remote learning option will also be required to check in with teachers daily and keep a log of their activities, which will equal to a school day, approximately six hours. These students will also be assessed on the same standards and criteria as on-site students.

There will be a full core curriculum, but electives could be limited.

A graphic with the draft plan presented to the board is attached to this story.

That graphic also includes a hybrid contingency plan, in case it is mandated by health officials.

“I can't predict what will happen,” Winter said. “That's a little over a month from today. The hybrid learning is a combination of in school and on-site, splitting our kids to allow for more social distancing to take place.”

The teachers and administrators are working on a detailed handbook which would cover how remote learning will look and that will be presented to the board at the Aug. 10 budget meeting. That would give board members a week to review the handbook prior to approval at the Aug. 17 regular meeting.

Early Release

Winter also presented an early release proposal to the board for Professional Learning for the staff.

“Currently we have a late start on Wednesdays at the high school and middle schools to allow teams to collaborate,” he said. “Covid is changing everything. The need for collaborative time for our staff to meet and check in with each other on a regular basis is a high priority.”

The proposal would have Central and West elementary schools, along with the middle school, to have an early PLC release on Fridays, at approximately 2 p.m. The high school would keep the Wednesday morning late start.

The board approved the request 7-0.

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