By Jessie Wagoner
McPherson Public Schools will be in session beginning Sept. 1. The USD- 418 Board of Education approved the 2020-21 school calendar and reopening plan on July 30. How students return to school, either in person, remotely or a hybrid plan, is up to their parents.
During enrollment, which is open now online at www.mcpherson.com, parents can select if they want their students to return via remote learning or the traditional, face-to-face model. Parents are asked to commit to a semester of either option. For those students returning to school, they will begin the school year in a hybrid model, which includes half-day sessions.
Since students have been out of school for such a considerable period of time and there are so many changes this year, Shiloh Vincent, district superintendent says the hybrid model will give students and teachers a chance to get acclimated to the new situation. The hybrid model, including half-day sessions, will last for the first three weeks of school. If there is an increase in COVID-19 cases in the community, the district may continue the hybrid model or return to it throughout the school year as needed.
During the half-day sessions, students and teachers will focus on core subjects and then during their time at home, they will work on specials remotely via online classrooms.
“The frequency and duration that students will be in a hybrid learning setting will be dependent on community conditions at that time,” Vincent said. “During low risk community conditions, we follow the face-to-face model; moderate risk community conditions will be the hybrid model and if there are high risk community conditions, all students and staff will follow the remote model.”
The district is working closely with the McPherson County Health Department and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to monitor community conditions, as well as developing safety protocols to follow during in-person school sessions. During all face-to-face sessions, anyone entering the school building will have their temperature checked. Handwashing will be conducted on an hourly basis. Students, staff and visitors must wear face masks and social distancing will be maintained.
“Our focus right now is safety,” Vincent said. “We all want to be back in the classrooms, but we need to make sure it is safe for everyone.”
The district has established goals for the first three weeks of school for all students. Those goals include:
- Social emotional learning and relationships
- Identifying and reducing gaps in learning
- Orientation to new processes
“Since students have been out of school since March 2020, USD-418 will focus first on relationships with students and social emotional needs,” Vincent said. “This first three weeks will be a chance for students to get to know their teachers, be reintroduced to classmates and reestablish their connections with the school family.”
Board members weighed their options heavily before approving the plan and start date. They considered input from parents, as well as teachers. Ultimately, deciding this was the best plan in a difficult situation. While not perfect, it will ensure children have access to teachers daily, either in-person or remotely and meets the health requirements.
“I heard a quote today that I have been trying to keep in mind,” Vincent said. “It was ‘the biggest barrier to a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan.’”