A plan was developed by the school administrators and teacher leaders and Monday night that plan was adopted by the USD 435 School Board with Abilene schools opening Aug. 26 for orientation of new students and all students returning Aug. 27.
After lengthy discussion of the plan by the building administrators and answering questions posed by school patrons through members of the school board, the Abilene BOE unanimously approved the opening of face-to-face classes in the schools beginning Aug. 27.
School superintendent Greg Brown gave a brief overview of the proposed plan and then turned to each administrator to give the proposal that will affect each of his or her buildings. The key message was loud and clear from the group. They want school to be as close to normal as possible amidst the pandemic and will do everything possible to provide a first class education while keeping the students and staff as safe as possible.
To accomplish the main message, there will be several changes in the daily routines at each building as the school year approaches. Below are a few of the planned changes that may occur within the buildings this school year.
• Each building will have specific drop off points for parents to unload their children and specific entrances for students to enter and exit the buildings.
• Every student, staff member and teacher in each building will wear masks when social distancing will not allow six feet between students and teachers. Temperature checks will be taken daily upon entrance to buildings.
• Sanitation will be very important as hand sanitizer will be present in each classroom and classrooms and restrooms will be cleaned regularly throughout the day.
• Lunchroom seating may be assigned seats during the lunch period and to satisfy social distancing, gyms and libraries or commons areas may be used for seating.
• Movement of students and teachers from class to class may be staggered to eliminate congestion in hallways.
• Lockers at the middle school will not be issued to students to begin the school year and students will carry backpacks to class.
• Students should have a water bottle, as most water fountains in the district will be turned off.
• Schools will open at 7:30 a.m. throughout the district and early arriving students will have a specific location to go to until regular classes begin.
• Schools may stagger the release of students at the end of the day to ease the congestion at exits.
Brown mentioned to the board that the administrators and several teachers have put in a lot of thought and planning into the school year throughout the summer in anticipation of getting back into the classrooms.
“Teachers have been working diligently all summer long with ideas and planning,” Mindy Sanders, principal of McKinley Elementary, said.
She said there has been a lot of idea sharing amongst her staff and she really wanted to thank her teachers for their efforts.
Brown and the administrators all thought the extra two weeks between when teachers and staff will report to work and when classes actually will begin will be valuable planning time for everyone.
Teachers will report Aug. 7 with classified staff reporting Aug. 13.
The building administrators created informational videos about each level of learning and specific operational notes that are available on the school system web page.
Brown discussed the enrollment process that is currently available on the districts’ web page. Each family will have the opportunity to choose between two options for enrolling their kids in school for this year.
“We think it is best to get the kids back in the classroom,” Brown said. “But we understand if parents are not wanting their children to be in the buildings during the pandemic. We have an option for them.”
Brown informed the board members about Remote Learning which will be available to all students so that they can attend the live classroom settings remotely from their homes. By using the student’s assigned iPad and the Internet, students will be able to join the class in session in real time.
The district may also use Remote Learning situations when school is halted due to weather such as a snow day this winter.
High school students who are not capable of coming to class or using the Remote Learning option will also have the Virtual School option that the district has had available for a number of years.
Unless there will be exceptions issued by the state of Kansas, each school is to have 1116 hours of instruction to meet accreditation requirements. Brown and the board discussed the current planned school calendar for 2020-2021 and if everything went according to plan, Abilene would end with eight and one half hours above the required amount.
AHS athletic director Will Burton discussed the planning that has been going on in relation to activities and sports with the board. Burton said a lot of planning has been in place as to what a practice and game day may look like. He and AMS athletic director Derek Berns discussed ways to lessen the exposure to COVID-19.
They talked about upcoming fall sports, especially football, at both levels and the planning that will take place beginning next week with the district coaching staff. They both mentioned that masks would be required when social distancing will not be doable. Staggering the use of locker rooms and disinfecting equipment after each use will be done.
Burton also addressed the uncertainties of when practices may begin due to KSHSAA not meeting until Tuesday afternoon. Their board of directors were scheduled to meet and vote on fall sports begin dates.
The board adopted a resolution to work with Dickinson County in the use of SPARK monies for the acquisition of special materials, masks and cleaning aides that are required because of COViD-19. Schools will be reimbursed through these funds for those expenditures.
The board also approved the hire of Kirill Kibisov as AMS 8th grade boys head basketball coach and the employment of Franklin
Reese as a substitute teacher. They accepted resignations from Dallas Menely as 8th grade assistant football coach, Julia Elledge as AHS kitchen manager and Marilyn Palmer, custodian/mail courier.
Rhonda Eckert, AMS secretary, announced her retirement.