Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Unified School District 207 schools will begin the 2020-2021 schoolyear Sept. 8 and end May 28.
On July 15, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced two executive orders regarding schoolyear 2020-2021. The first delayed the reopening of Kansas schools to Sept. 9, and the second required the use of face coverings by students, staff and faculty. Though the former went unapproved by the Kansas State Board of Education after a tied 5-5 vote, several districts across the state have still chosen to delay the start of school until after the Labor Day holiday.
USD 207’s delayed start was approved by board members during the monthly board meeting July 27 at the board office.
The decision was made jointly by USD 207 staff and the Fort Leavenworth Garrison.
“Our original (start) date of Aug. 17 was something that we were fully prepared to execute only because of the support of (Garrison Commander) Colonel (Harry) Hung and housing to get all the families here … and the partnership that we have,” said Keith Mispagel, superintendent of schools. “Now with the governor’s order leaving it to school districts, starting after Sept. 8 leaves an opportunity to not only support the school district in getting ready but also post and the Garrison to make sure everything is ready as well.”
Hung said he fully supports the delayed start date.
“I fully support Doctor Mispagel’s delayed start of the academic year to Sept. 8 and the additional measures he is taking to include options for families,” Hung said. “An 8 September start is consistent with the start of the (Command and General Staff College) academic year and also supports the recent approval of an additional 64 more late (permanent change-of-station) arrivals attending the course.
“It’s no accident why this is the best school district in the state of Kansas,” he said. “Besides providing the best world class education for our children, this is also a district that has high standards for safety. In a COVID-19 pandemic, safety is a top priority for all families on Fort Leavenworth.”
Mispagel said that the rest of the schoolyear calendar is still being worked out to meet the minimum requirement of 1,116 hours for students in a given schoolyear. The full calendar will be announced at a later date.
Along with approving the new start and end dates, the board also approved various operation plans and approved the purchase of new equipment in an effort to execute the schoolyear safely.
Families will have the option of remote learning or onsite/in-person instruction with enhanced safety protocols for their children.
There will be a minimum requirement of two-and-a-half hours per day for pre-kindergarten students and six-and-a-half hours per day for kindergarten through ninth-grade students.
There will be plans in place to require remote learning for a period of time if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19. All students will be required to take home their assigned electronic devices daily in case there are any sudden changes to the learning environment.
All students, staff and faculty will be required to wear face coverings properly over their nose and mouth. Desks will be arranged six feet apart and facing forward in the classroom, and no supplies will be shared among students.
All classrooms will have sinks and hand sanitizer available.
All extracurricular activities and field trips are canceled.
Additional safety measures may include teachers coming to each classroom for specials — music, physical education, etc. — and lunches served in the classrooms to limit movement in the halls.
All students, staff and faculty must bring their own water bottles. Drinking fountains will not be available. The board approved the addition of seven water bottle filler fountains and five cold water faucets that will be spread out across all four post schools and the Maintenance and Transportation Facility.
All students, staff and faculty will receive temperature checks upon entering the building.
Anyone with a temperature of 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be sent home. During the meeting, the board approved the purchase of temperature-sensing kiosks for all four post schools and the district office.
All students riding the buses and bus drivers must wear face coverings. Students will be assigned seats on the bus.
Colleen Toliver, Bradley Elementary School first-grade teacher and Fort Leavenworth Education Association representative, said, via videoteleconference, the teachers appreciate the work of Mispagel and SuAnn Grant, deputy superintendent, to create an education plan.
“We appreciated the opportunity to have input into the operations plan through the COVID Task Force that was created by SuAnn and Keith. I firmly believe that teachers want to be in the building with kids, but we want to make sure that, of course, it’s safe for everyone to be there,” Toliver said. “There’s that balance between being safe, but still being able to teach students while addressing their social and emotional needs.
“We know not all the questions and concerns have been answered and we will continue to work with administration in helping to find solutions and answer those questions, but the initial plan helps us to get started,” she said. “We also support the start of Sept. 8. That extra time before kids come to school will allow us to continue to plan and prepare as we navigate these unchartered waters. We thank you for accepting this plan.”
During the meeting, Mispagel updated board members on the enrollment process for the 2020-21 schoolyear. All enrollment will be done digitally through Skyward.
During enrollment, which must be completed no later than Aug. 3, parents will choose whether they would like to opt for onsite/in-person school or remote learning.
To begin the enrollment process, visit https://www.usd207.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=261085&type=d&pREC_ID=1664422.
New Patton Junior High School
Rich Holden, chief financial officer, updated board members on the progress of the renovation of the old MacArthur Elementary School into the new Patton Junior High School. As of July 2020, all demolition has been completed.
The board approved the consent assignments for the year covering working members, school issues, truancy issues, financial issues, legal issues and Freedom of Information Act issues. It is a yearly requirement of all Kansas school boards.
Board members and other essential personnel practiced social distancing and wore face coverings during the board meeting, and several members of the USD 207 district office and other personnel attended the meeting via videoconferencing.
All board meetings are open to the public. For an overview of the meeting and the minutes, visit https://go.boarddocs.com/ks/usd207/Board.nsf/Public.
The next USD 207 board meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the district office.