Following Governor Laura Kelly’s announcement that Kansas public schools would not begin the year until after Labor Day, many school superintendents were left with flooded phone lines and mounting questions.
Abilene’s Greg Brown landed in that pool of superintendents that saw his phone blow up as he was taken aback by the announcement.
“Governor Kelly’s announcement was completely unexpected,” Brown said. “We didn’t see that coming. We are committed to providing a world-class education and we are also committed to managing the negativity created by COVID-19. Our focus will be on providing your children with a solid education.”
No one else anticipated this development, including the Kansas State High School Activities Association who was set to announce guidelines and regulations for fall and winter sports on Friday. They later announced that they would regroup and study their plans for altered seasons and would announce at a later time.
In Abilene, Brown and his administrative team were meeting last week to finalize plans on opening Abilene USD 435 on time with in-person classroom teaching. They had talked about masks and social distancing and were in the process of formulating local guidance on what school would look like in Abilene. Brown said the administrative team was using the results of the Parent Survey that was conducted online recently.
With Kelly’s executive order to come out today, Brown and other Kansas superintendents must wait to see what exactly is covered in the order and will it be approved by the State Department of Education. When the order goes into effect, schools will have an additional two weeks to prepare their districts based on local situations.
Friday, Brown took to YouTube in hopes of answering many of the questions that are out there concerning the start of the school year. He reassured Abilene patrons that he and his team were working on best case scenarios to offer classroom teaching and also have a plan for distance learning if that is what parents of local students may want.
“It looks like wearing masks will be required in our buildings, at least during the start of the school year,” Brown said. “Based upon what I have seen in our summer school and in our conditioning classes, kids have been wearing masks. Kids are more resilient than adults when it comes to wearing masks and they have handled it very well.”
“What do we know at this time?” Brown poised as a question. “We know we are going to have school this fall. We are going to start our enrollment process as early as this next week.”
Abilene will move forward with enrollment procedures Brown said. Parents will be able to enroll their children o-line, using the district’s web page. They will have the option of enrolling in classroom classes, remote learning or the virtual school provided by the district.
Brown described remote learning as students who will receive instruction through a remote setting and will join their classes through some sort of live streaming in real time. The student will virtually be attending the classes that are in session within the buildings.
The virtual school option is available for ninth through twelfth graders. The virtual school option has been available in Abilene for several years.
Brown noted that all online enrollments should be completed by Aug. 4. In person enrollment will be available at the high school on Aug. 4. Brown hopes that most families will take advantage of the online enrollment.
Brown ended his YouTube video by encouraging parents and students to continue to wear masks, social distance and wash hands regularly.
“We will be wearing masks, distancing ourselves and washing our hands regularly at school when we begin,” Brown said.