Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
On March 17, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced that in-person schooling for all Kansas schools would be canceled for the remainder of the 2019-20 schoolyear because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following that announcement, districts statewide, along with the Kansas State Department of Education, began devising continuous learning plans to finish out the schoolyear. Unified School District 207 began implementing its plan March 30. It will continue through the last day of school May 22.
“Our desired outcome is to provide instructional learning opportunities focusing on the critical core standards and needs for each USD 207 student participating in continuous learning days,” said SuAnn Grant, USD 207 deputy superintendent.
The continuous learning plan, which was officially approved by the school board during the monthly board meeting March 30, uses different digital instruction programs, in-person materials and videos to deliver material to the students.
“Teachers and staff have been working diligently and extremely hard getting ready,” Keith Mispagel, USD 207 superintendent, said during the Fort Leavenworth Facebook live community update March 27. “One thing I know for sure is the teachers in USD 207 and the staff are very excited to get back to educating our students. The resounding response that I’ve heard from them is that they miss your kids. I’ve also heard that the kids miss seeing their teachers and that’s a feelgood for us in this new normal that we’re trying to figure out.
“The focus that we’re looking at as a staff is a focus on team,” he said. “The team being the team of Fort Leavenworth, the team of families, the team of the school district, and us working together to create this new normal and focus on the best we can do for your kids and for our families in this great community for the remainder of the schoolyear and beyond.”
The systems used, and the length of the school day vary based on grade level.
Pre-kindergarten through second grade use SeeSaw and thirdthrough ninth-grade uses Google Classroom. KSDE recommends a maximum of 30 minutes of coursework for pre-kindergarten, 45 minutes for kindergarten through first-grade, one hour for second- through third-grade, 90 minutes for fourth- through sixth-grade, and three hours for seventh- through ninth-grade, which equates to 30 minutes per subject.
Kindergarten through second grade students were issued iPads to use, third- through eighthgrade students were issued Chromebooks and ninth-grade students were issued Asus notebooks.
While there were hiccups in some of the programs, staff said the first few days of instruction went well.
“I personally received e-mails from teachers and parents who were excited to start the day or who were making personal connections to the lessons they were involved in,” said Tyler Fowler, MacArthur Elementary School principal. “My hope for this plan is to continue to provide students with quality instruction and activities that engage them in critical content and standards of their current grade level.
“I am very lucky to have an extremely talented, dedicated and professional staff that are willing to take on any challenge to help educate their students,” he said.
Ryan Wiebe, Patton Junior High School principal, said he has hopes not only for the students and families but also the teachers.
“My hope is that students and families learn the content being delivered and that teachers come away with new and innovative instructional approaches, which has already occurred this past week for many,” Wiebe said. “This continuous learning approach has created new bonds and stronger relationships between teachers, staff, students and families at Patton Junior High School, and I only see this continuing through the end of the schoolyear.”
While teachers were happy to reconnect with their students, they said it is an emotional process.
“I sent (each student) a letter when I found out that we would not be returning to our school building this year,” said Ally Jackson, Bradley Elementary School fourth-grade teacher. “I’ve been getting one or two replies in the mail each day, most of which bring tears to my eyes. I miss them so much and being able to chat with all of them today (March 30) filled my heart.
“I hope that my class keeps their sense of belonging,” she said. “Even though we aren’t physically together anymore, we will always be a family.”
Debra Salvatorelli, Eisenhower Elementary School sixthgrade teacher, agreed.
“I believe all of us are hoping to reconnect with our students in some way, shape or form before the last day of school, but if that is not to be, we want them to know that it has been a fabulous year and that we are still here for them,” Salvatorelli said. “We want them to reach out for help if they need it. We also want them to reach out to say hello. …We want them to know how much we care.”
All continuous learning plan documents, parent guidebooks and other related material are available under the COVID-19 tab at usd207.org.
For district questions, e-mail email@example.com.
For specific school-related questions, e-mail the student’s respective school at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.