USD-448 succeeding under shutdown due to COVID 19

By Diane Miller

 

INMAN—The USD-448 school board met via Zoom online video conference service on Apr. 20, 2020. All board members were logged in, along with Scott Friesen, superintendent; Jo McFadden, Inman Elementary School principal; and Tyler Weinbrenner, junior high/high school principal. 

Janell Harman discussed several invoices that have been paid recently. The popular junior high science curriculum from McGraw-Hill has been renewed for the next six years. Costs for new sports scoreboards, part of the planned budget for facilities upgrades, and repairs to the high school fire alarm system were also shared. 

Friesen said that the end-of-semester newsletter “will be out soon to all residents in the school district.” It will feature information about how the administrators, teachers, and students are faring during the shutdown.

Harman shared that, “The board and teachers’ representatives have exchanged letters” relating to the upcoming contract negotiations. She expects the talks to take place in late May/early June. 

The continuous learning plan submitted to the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) is in the process of being reviewed; approval is expected soon. The approved plan will give USD-448 a waiver for the number of attendance days for this school year due to the COVID 19 shutdown.

“I am so proud of the teachers and hours they are putting in” to help their students, said McFadden. She emphasized that teachers are collaborating with each other, even across grade levels, and that has been a positive outcome. 

“Changes have been made based on feedback from students and parents. Questions are being answered,” she said. 

Only a few students are not participating on a regular basis; letters will be sent to those families to identify ways to get all students involved. 

McFadden announced that preschool screening will be held July 31, 2020. Information is available now to reserve a screening slot for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds on the district’s Facebook page and website or by calling Inman Elementary School at 620-585-6441 or by emailing Lisa Stoss at lstoss@usd448.com or Abby Epp at aepp@usd448.com

Weinbrenner explained that JH/HS teachers are focusing on standards and essential concepts for each class. Some have been using Google Classroom for the past two years, so this made the transition easier for both teachers and students who can use it to turn in assignments and to talk to that teacher. Zoom is also being used for class meetings. Only nine students have asked for paper packets of learning materials, and they are receiving them weekly. 

“I’m impressed with the students and families who are keeping up with assignments,” Weinbrenner said. “Teachers and coaches are reaching out to students to encourage them and to offer help if needed.”

Russ Goering, athletic director, is planning for summer camps and weight training for athletes once the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted. Joe Pfannenstiel, JH/HS counselor, is working to finish registration for students into their classes for 2020-21. Stuco and class officer elections, normally held in the spring, will be held in August. 

Katie Reinecker asked if there will be some kind of graduation ceremony. Weinbrenner responded that he and Friesen have been talking about what kinds of recognition can be accomplished, but that it is unlikely the usual ceremony in the gym can take place, even after gathering restrictions are lifted. Harman noted that graduates need to be recognized as well as new members of the National Honor Society, scholarship recipients, and recipients of other awards. 

Some Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds may be coming to USD-448. Friesen explained that about $26,000 will be available to offset expenses relating to COVID 19. There are stipulations as to how this amount may be spent; some could be used to offer summer classes to keep students from falling behind their grade levels due to the change in teaching modalities.

Friesen extended his compliments to faculty, staff, families, and students for making the continuous learning plan successful. The cooks are making 346 meals each weekday; deliveries continue to students living in rural areas, while other families are picking up at the school. He emphasized that having a school lunch makes students feel it is more like a “real” school day. 

Darren Schmidt stated that the school leaders have set a high bar and an excellent tone for continuing school, leading to confidence for parents and students in the education they are receiving during the shutdown. 

“Thank you to the superintendent, principals, and teachers for what you are doing so well,” he concluded.

Kara Ayers has been rehired as the Spanish teacher. She had resigned her position to take another job out of the country, but those plans were waylaid by COVID 19 and international travel restrictions. At this time, all faculty positions are filled; some classified and coaching positions will be posted for future hiring.