Kim Palenske hands out sack lunches to students at McKinley School Tuesday morning. The school district has been providing the bags while the students are learning from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The food bags are prepared at Abilene Middle School and shuttled to the schools. They generally contain a sandwich, chips, fruit, vegetable, milk and something for breakfast the next morning.

Abilene students are going to do some great things in the next eight weeks while school becomes an online experience.

During his daily chat with patrons Tuesday afternoon, Abilene Superintendent Greg Brown told parents and patrons to embrace the changes.

“I will encourage you at home to embrace some of this change going on and understand we’re redefining the way to develop positive relationships with the school, home and children,” Brown said.

Brown is reaching out to the public during a 4 p.m. daily online chat where he explains what’s going on with Abilene Public Schools while “traditional school” is closed due to the COVID-19 threat.

All Kansas school facilities were closed last week for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year by Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The link to the daily chat can be found on the home page of the Abilene schools’ website at www.abileneschools.org

The homepage is also the “go-to” page for all information regarding the new online Continuous Learning program and other information.

Rural lunch


Abilene students who live in rural areas can have a free lunch delivered to their home while Abilene Public Schools are shutdown.

“If you need to take advantage of our lunch program and live out in the country outside of the city limits, feel free to contact Dori Collins (with food service),” said Superintendent Greg Brown. “She is collecting that information.”

Collins can be reached by email at dcollins@abileneschools.og.

The plan to deliver to rural families is a new component to the lunch program announced last week by Abilene USD 435 to feed families while schools are shutdown.

Abilene schools are offering a free lunch (and the following day’s breakfast) to any youth ages 1 to 18.

The meals are being delivered to six pickup sites in town: Kennedy Elementary, McKinley Elementary, Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary, St. Andrew’s Elementary, the bus stop at 501 N. Brady and the bus stop at 6th and Kuney streets in the Abilene Community Church parking lot.

Anyone who filled out the survey requesting meals is urged to pick them up. On Monday, the first day of delivery, many families did not pick up their meals.

Teachers making contact

Brown said he asked teachers to share some of the “neat things” they’re seeing as they establish contact with the various families and students.

“I wish with all my heart I could share with you a really neat picture a kindergarten student sent to (Kennedy Elementary Teacher) Mrs. (Renae) Willey,” Brown said. “It just melted my heart to see her picture and note.”

Brown also referred to a video McKinley Elementary third grade Teacher Denise Liby received from one of her students that shows how “tech savy third graders are.” The video was created on SeeSaw, an app used by kindergarten through third graders.


• Kennedy and McKinley teacher leaders are creating a weekly list that includes “should do” activities and “could do” activities parents can use to encourage student learning.

• Eisenhower Elementary is looking at a once-a-week “homeroom Zoom” where teachers and students can have face-to-face online contact.

• Abilene Middle School teacher leaders are changing the “focus we traditionally have on grading.”

“The word for the year for middle school staff this year is ‘connections.’ We’re redefining what connections are going to look like in coming weeks,” Brown said.

• AMS and Abilene High School are looking to establish contact hours between teachers and students to help families with questions they will have related to lessons received on Canvas.

• Counselors, special education teachers and social workers are reaching out to maintain a level of “connectedness;” Dickinson County Learning Exchange and virtual school students are receiving emails from their instructors explaining how things will work.

• For AHS students attending classes at Salina Area Technical College: Some SATC teachers are allowing small groups of students (based on governor’s order limiting gatherings to 10 or fewer) to come in to the school to finish up projects. Students should contact their SATC teacher for more information.

Drivers ed

Brown told students who signed up to take driver’s education this summer that it “has not been cancelled — yet.” The district is hoping the COVID-19 epidemic may wane a little by then and it can go on as planned, along with milestone events like graduation, prom and some middle school events.

Stay in touch

Brown urged parents and patrons to stay in touch. The district office can be reached by calling (785) 263-2630; administrators and staff also can be reached by email. Brown can be reached by email at gbrown@abileneschools.org

He also encouraged families and patrons to tune into the daily 4 p.m. chat where they are welcome to text questions.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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