Kennedy Primary School will move to remote learning starting today (Tuesday, Nov. 17) through Thanksgiving break due to COVID-19.

Also, Abilene Middle School — which moved to remote learning on Nov. 11 — will remain in online instruction through Thanksgiving. Initially, it was hoped the change to online would only last one week.

“We had hoped to see significant improvements by today, but this has not been the case,” according to information released Monday by Abilene Public Schools.

“We are truly sorry for the challenging position this is causing many of our young families, but at this point, we really have no option,” the information stated.

Superintendent Greg Brown said Monday afternoon the schools have been challenged by sickness and the ever-growing number of people in quarantine.

“We ran out of people to keep it (Kennedy) going,” Brown said, explaining the reason for moving to online learning. “We were limping along last week.”

Currently, Kennedy has six positive COVID-19 cases and 64 teachers, staff and students in quarantine.

“Kennedy is too small of a school to have that going on,” Brown said.

AMS reported 11 total COVID-19 positives and 128 people in quarantine on Monday.

School board concerned

The news that Kennedy Elementary had to move to remote learning was not received well by Abilene Board of Education members.

“Some of my school board members are not really happy right now,” Brown said.

During its Monday, Nov. 9 meeting, the school board spent most of the night in open discussion talking about the impact COVID and the quarantines are having on the social/emotional and mental health of students. They also spent considerable time in executive session talking with Kansas Association of School Boards Attorney Donna Whiteman about options.

Afterward, they directed Brown to arrange a meeting with Dickinson County Commissioners to request a modified quarantine plan that would relax restrictions that have resulted in large numbers of staff and students being quarantined.

County commissioners, however, declined to meet with the Abilene Board of Education as an elected body. Instead, it was decided that Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson would meet with a couple school board representatives, health department officials and certain county and school staff.

The commission indicated its typical protocol involves sending one commissioner to represent the group when attending various meetings. That one commissioner then reports back to the commission as a whole.

As of Sunday, Nov. 15, USD 435 reported that 281 teachers, staff and students were in quarantine and there were 30 positive cases of COVID.

The district also reports having 25 people who have “converted to positive” or tested positive after being quarantined.

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