Parents, students, and staff in Augusta USD #402 public schools are living in suspense as updates come daily and even hourly on how COVID-19 is changing the world and the government is restricting community life to suppress rates of national infection.
“Essentially the physical buildings are closed but learning and instructional delivery will continue to take place. Learning is going to look different,” said USD #402 Superintendent Matt Ward.
Since Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly ordered closure of all K-12 schools on March 17 for the remaining 2020 academic year, all district employees for USD #402 are making plans to adjust curriculum and implement new policy.
Kansas is the first state to enact this. The state formed the “Continuous Learning Task Force” to create a framework for school districts statewide to continue educational services while not meeting in school buildings.
Ward describes the Continuous Learning Task Force as a “group of expert teachers who have been working tirelessly,” as the Kansas State Department of Education provides guidance for all schools for continued learning moving forward.
The special board meeting on March 19 for the USD #402 Board of Education is tentatively re-scheduled for Friday, March 27 at 4 pm in the Board Room of the district office, according to Ward.
“We re-scheduled the meeting because there are so many changes (about adjustments due to COVID-19),” Ward said. “It's a place-holder for any formalities that need to be addressed, in case there needs to be approval of anything as it comes up.”
The previous agenda included approval to pay district employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that has now been confirmed by Kelly.
Spring break ended March 20 and classes have been canceled until April 10 tentatively.
Kansas state testing has also been canceled, Ward said.
New teaching method options include remote learning, paper learning with packaged materials and online curriculum. Another possibility will be small groups of 10 students in building, six feet apart. All of this will be assessed in coming weeks.
“Our conversations with staff will be based around a plan for us to roll out continued learning with our students in different ways. The next week we'll basically be communicating internally how we plan to approach instructions going forward.”
A continued learning plan will be submitted to the state for approval.
There will be a Zoom link on the online agenda for remote access, as the board asks people not to attend in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Find the link on the district site at : https://www.usd402.com/238233_2
When it comes to protecting the health of teachers, Ward said, “Our priorities can't change, our families come first and we need to work from that. We expect everyone to follow the guidelines.”
“One of our primary goals is to make sure each student graduates. We want to see our seniors graduate,” said Ward. “I understand where people are upset; it's perfectly normal. This is bigger than our district; it's a global pandemic.”
To accommodate seniors graduating on time, Ward confirmed that adjustments are being made to lessen the credit hour requirements from 28 to 21.
“Augusta is the type of team to band together in uncertain times. There's no place I'd rather be. I'm confident in the abilities of our staff that we can do what's necessary for our students.”