‘Not today, not tomorrow, not this week’
Plans for school in progress, waiting for KSDE Guidelines
March 19, 2020
Plans for continuous learning will take time, says superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade; things changing rapidly means no plans are for certain
The USD 383 school district is awaiting direction from the Kansas Department of Education for guidance on the design of a Manhattan-Ogden version of continuous learning. At the time of writing, the KSDE is yet to produce these guidelines, though they were expected to come out at 5 p.m. March 18.
There are a multitude of options open to the school, from small group learning to online school to packet work. Continuous learning may look different from student to student and from district to district as every situation is unique. The district is also committed to doing distance learning well rather than fast, meaning an approximate timeline for school starting up would be the end of March.
“More than anything, it’s just having [continuous learning] be coordinated as opposed to a knee jerk get it out there because it will look good,” Superintendent Marvin Wade said. “And that’s what I’ve seen some people doing to say that they have distance learning. I don’t like the way they’re doing it and I want us to do better, but I also don’t want us to take very long figuring this out.”
Currently the school has sent out surveys to all parents and teachers to determine what technology they have available. They intend to use the information to ensure education will work for individual families and will follow up with those who do not respond.
“[The survey] will help us know where to start at least because right now we have no idea how many people, how many students do have access at all. Whether it’s the wireless or the actual device we have no idea,” Director of teaching and learning Paula Hough said. “Once we get that information, we’ll have a starting point.”
It is imperative that all those who can fill out the surveys as soon as possible to get education started with USD 383 students soon.
One of the major concerns the district has for distance learning is students who struggle with focus and attendance in regular school.
“That is where that third option of small groups in buildings will be essential because we will be able to use transportation — because they’re still being paid they’re still employed — so… with ten students or less we could make that happen,” Hough said. “We could provide those opportunities… that’s a definite down the road question.”
Another concern of online school is the ability of the district to meet the requirements of Individual Education Plans. Executive Director of Special Services Andrea Tiede is working on plans to work with students one-on-one to meet those needs. This includes medically fragile and immunocompromised students.
“There are ways that we can meet the IEPs,” Dr. Wade said. “I know there’s a couple different avenues we could go, it’ll probably be a combination of them. There’s some guidance out there but it hasn’t been approved guidance and we just want to make sure we will do it the right way.”
School services set to continue despite shutdown
The school board has committed to taking care of its employees, students and their families in the wake of COVID-19 shutting down. They will continue to pay teachers, hourly workers, transportation staff and contract workers.
The Kansas government announced that they will continue to provide funding originally promised to pay school workers for the remainder of the school year.
“I’m grateful that our legislature [and] governor put [legislation paying school workers] in there,” Assistant superintendent Eric Reid said. “It was a protection to make sure we did the right thing. I think we would have done the right thing anyway, but it’s also a protection that they will fund us what they said they would fund us…. This is ‘we’re going to come through with the money, you be fair to the people.’ And that’s a great thing.”
The National Education Association Manhattan-Ogden and USD 383 board of education have created a Memorandum of Agreement that gives an outline for employees at this time. It outlines a multitude of precedents including: The formation of a Labor Management Committee to manage conflicts, the assertion that teachers will be paid their full salaries if they comply with continuous learning guidelines and that extra-curricular supervisors such as coaches will be paid their salaries.
The situation for childcare regarding children usually in school is still undecided, and any childcare agency will need state permission to continue operating. Childcare in groups will prove difficult under social isolation standards of gathering under ten people. The lack of childcare is likely to cause economic hardship due to students’ parents being forced to stay home.
“I want to recognize and value those people that are already providers and try to support them in any way they can,” Superintendent Dr. Marvin Wade said. “As opposed to moving these students, those young kids into a school type setting. So I think it’s going to be more how we bolster and support those providers that are already there out there in our community.”
The school fed 1,091 students with sack lunches and breakfasts on March 18 and will continue to open feeding sites across Manhattan. The sites are open to all students between the ages of 1 and 18. School feeding isn’t currently reaching all students who qualify for free or reduced lunch — some 40% of the district — and hope to increase those numbers.
“We’re adding… three additional sites, we’re trying to identify different areas where we can reach more students that maybe aren’t able to come to our facilities,” Stephanie Smith child nutrition director said. And then we’re working with KST. “We’re continuing to work on it. It’s not perfect, yet. And I don’t know that we’ll get to the perfect but we haven’t given up on the ones that we’re not reaching. We’re still trying to find a way to reach them.”