School intends to stay in hybrid through semester

Kris Long, Sports Editor

At Wednesday’s USD383 Board of Education meeting, it was announced that the district intends to stay in the hybrid learning model through the end of the semester, barring a drastic change in Covid metrics.

The numbers are looking promising for Riley County, with positivity down to 5.9% as of Oct 20 and metrics such as student and teacher positivity rate, case numbers and attendance levels remain fairly low. However, they keep the district in the hybrid according to the guidelines set out at the beginning of the year. 

“We try to downplay the green, yellow and red, that it’s not just as soon as it turns in the green, you make a change,” superintendent Marvin Wade said. “I could make a case for making the move now. The positivity rates are going down, the quarantines are going down. Those numbers really look good. But it’s that combination of the numbers, this time of year, what’s going on state and nationally, and what I hear from the medical community about what they see the trend being over the next three months… It’s all of those things together that just makes me fearful.”

One major reason the board chose to move the decision back to semester was the required schedule changes that come with going 4-days a week. Some classes’ combined A and B groups are too big to effectively social distance in their classrooms. This means classes would either have to find alternative space or split, with students either being forced to take a different class or having to find a different teacher. These are both easier to do at semester than in the middle of student’s classes. 

“If the district can social distance and have all the classes be under 20, then I would have been voted for making that change, especially for K-6,” board member Kristin Brighton, who voted to stay in hybrid, said. “But… they said basically that today, they can’t guarantee that, but we can make steps over the next eight weeks so that in the spring semester, we have taken as many steps as possible to keep class numbers down.”

One concern is that coming back at semester will potentially expose more students in the middle of flu season and directly after holiday travels. 

“[Travel and flu season is] the kind of thing we need to work out,” Wade said. “We talked about, if we make the move, then what are we going to do after Thanksgiving? Well, it is the same issue right after Christmas break. So we’ve got a, we’ve got to be ready for that too.”

In the time between now and semester, the district hopes to expand in-person learning for IEP and other struggling students. They have already put more IEP students into the “group D” category, and hope to continue the process of identifying students with particularly acute need. 

“For some kids, hybrid works and some kids it doesn’t and we know that,” Brighton said. “I was really glad to hear that for at-risk students, they’re taking some steps for people who just are failing because of this. And we’re trying to at least get those kids the help they need.”

The motion to stay in hybrid passes 5-2, with board members Brandy Santos and Darrell Edie in the dissent. 

“When we sit at that table, our responsibility, at least from my perspective, is education,” Santos said. “And I understand safety. And I know there are people who are concerned. But when I make my votes, and when I advocate, I do it based on what my job is. And my job there is for the education of our children…. As a board our job is to determine what we want. And it is the job of the administration to figure out how to get it… And so we’ve got to ask our administration to do the impossible and figure it out, figure out how we’re going to do it.”