Russell County USD 407 is preparing to start school for the Fall 2020 semester. “The plans to balance the health and wellness of the COVID- 19 situation and what is best for education is a tough achievement for USD 407,” said Shelly Swayne, superintendent. The collaborative efforts of USD 407 and Russell County Health Officials have produced the following plans to bring students and wellness together.
Simpson Elementary and Bickerdyke Elementary Schools are focused on bringing all students and staff together for learning and exploration every day Monday - Friday from 8:00 AM - 3:30 PM. The schedule will see students and staff spend a regular school day together, but not in regular form. Student numbers in classrooms will abide by and rely on social distancing to make this plan work at its highest level. Students will be divided into smaller groups, receive core subject based lessons directly from teachers, and spend part of their days in learning groups to find electives and independent time on task for goals.
Ruppenthal Middle and Russell High Schools have designed a hybrid schedule that has students both at school and online/at home learning. The design sees half of the student body in class for a 3.5 hour session on campus, while the other half of their studies are to be remote learning based. This plan relies on students documenting their time spent outside of the regular school attendance day to be successful. Students and staff will create their individualized plan of study (IPS) to guide their work and accomplishments.
Every student and staff member, at every school, will take a hand-washing and surface cleaning break every 60 minutes. Mask breaks are also a part of these break times. Students and staff are encouraged to teach outside where more space and open air allows for less spread of germs and disease. Breakfast and lunch will be served to all students and staff, but the exact processes have not yet been determined at each building.
On July 20, Governor Laura Kelly announced Executive Orders No. 20-58 and No. 20-59, delaying the start of the Kansas school year through September 8, and making masks mandatory for students and staff at all Kansas schools respectively. USD 407 respects these orders and will comply in our best efforts to be safe with all students.
“Starting school after Labor Day creates some challenges, but they are rather minor to USD 407. Since our school year with students was scheduled to begin on August 26, we can adapt to EO 20-58 easier than many,” states Swayne. The mask EO 20-59 is much more concerning at USD 407. “The ability to teach and learn with students ages 4-12 wearing masks is much harder than not; and we believe our students need a feeling of safety and emotional connections. We are also in a unique position at the secondary schools to have to choose between health concerns. Do we risk the spread of COVID by not requiring masks, or do we require masks and risk heat exhaustion due to classrooms being very hot every day? It’s a very tough position.”
In all, USD 407 is ready to get to work. The educators have long awaited the opportunity to embrace the professional work that is the heart and soul of teaching. There is no doubt that the plans will change and adapt as school resumes, but school will resume and USD 407 is ready.