By JAMES BELL
ELLIS – The Ellis USD 388 Board of Education approved the district reopening plan as presented by the district during a special meeting Monday night.
Before the board discussed the plan, three community members spoke to the board about their support of opting out of the mask mandate.
"This takes away medical freedom and my parental authority over my children," Samantha Baker said. "And that is not OK."
She said she would also not allow the district to take temperatures of her children.
Another speaker presented the board with a petition that included 107 signatures asking the board to opt the district out of the mask mandate, but board members noted many of the signatures appeared to be from recent graduates and not just parents as requested by the petition organizer.
Former board member Mike Keller spoke in support of the mandate as a way to keep the schools open so his daughter — a senior — could have a chance of having a full year.
"I can't disagree with anything they said," Keller said. "I get it," offering to the crowd that he generally supports freedom and choice.
But Keller said "My freedom ends where someone else's begins."
Keller also spoke to the crowd about liability issues for the district and the board that could stem from opting out of the mandate without a clear legal precedent.
"There is a lot of times that I had to vote for things that I was not real happy to be voting for, but the sad fact is we do live in a society where lawsuits are the norm," Keller said.
Upon the completion of public comments, the board discussed making masks for children in fifth grade and lower a recommendation, in order to allow for the mandate to be implemented if needed at a later date.
But as board members made comments to the crowd, while supporting the comments and the sentiment of those that wanted to opt-out of the mandate, they ultimately landed in favor of mandated face coverings for all students, faculty, staff, vendors and other visitors.
"I'm not saying the masks are going to be the savior of everything, obviously, but I want to keep these kids in school," said board president Jared Schiel.
They also discussed allowing students enrolled as remote students to participate in extracurricular activities. That measure was brought to a vote by the board but failed 1-6.
The board then voted for the plan as presented, a measure that passed 5-2. Ellis schools are scheduled to reopen with a half-day on Wednesday.
Read the full plan below.
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USD 388 Reopening Plan
USD Reopening Plans guidelines/procedures will supersede all regular handbook guidelines/procedures until the Covid 19 pandemic is over or the handbook has been adjusted to represent a permanent change. These guidelines and procedures may change through the year as we receive additional information and guidance from federal, state, and local authorities.
Thank you for your patience as our dedicated group of staff who have worked to develop a Ready to Reopen Plan that focuses on a safe and healthy learning environment for all students. After careful planning and collaboration, we are excited to release the Ready to Reopen Plan.
What will school look like for the 2020-21 school year?
As long as the Ellis County Health Department and/or state allows, we will provide on-site learning.
Throughout the year, there could be three different learning environments based on the current phase the county and/or state is in or based on the local needs of our buildings and district. The district or building’s learning environment status will be determined by USD 388 Board of Education, administration, and/or local health officials. The Kansas School Gating Criteria as developed by the Kanas Department of Education will help serve as a reference for us. Below are the three different learning environments.
Learning Environment #1 - On-site Learning Environment: students and teachers will be in school with various safety measures put into place.
1. Students are on-site and in attendance at their school.
2. All students, faculty, staff, vendors and other visitors will wear face coverings.
3. Additional daily cleaning routines will be in place.
4. Classroom layouts have been shifted and rearranged to allow for as much social distancing as possible.
5. Students and staff will go through daily health checks (temperature checks).
6. When possible, students will be maintained in their same cohort group through the day.
7. Social distancing will be implemented during our lunch periods.
Learning Environment #2 - Hybrid Learning Environment (If needed due to increased Covid numbers): students would be spending part of their time in the classroom and part of their time learning remotely from home.
1. Students will attend school either two or three days a week.
2. All students, faculty, staff, vendors and other visitors will wear face coverings while in school.
3. Students will engage in synchronous and asynchronous learning every day when off site.
4. Social distancing measures will be maintained according to current guidelines.
5. Class sizes will be reduced by creating cohorts based on alphabet with the exception of families with different last names staying together.
6. On-site priority will be provided, depending on staffing, for:
a. Students with Low Incidence Disabilities
b. English language learners
c. Students that are homeless
d. Students in foster care
e. Students with written plans created through collaborative teams
Learning Environment #3 – Remote (Online) Learning Environment: students would be doing all of their learning from home and not entering the school building at all. Remote (Online) Learning is an individual family/student option that you can choose. Remote (Online) Learning may also become mandatory at some point in time if the school buildings are closed due to an outbreak of COVID cases.
The district and/or building will determine the learning environment status (on-site, hybrid, remote) based on state orders, county health orders and/or local needs of the building/district. We will constantly monitor the COVID threat in the community and move between our different learning environments as needed.
Here are 11 essential things to know about remote learning:
1. Students maintain enrollment status at their brick and mortar school (USD 388). This is not an alternate online school.
2. For many classes, students will engage in school online during regular school hours and follow a standard school schedule (8:00 am-3:24 pm).
3. Learning will occur asynchronously (on your own) with daily synchronous (scheduled) contact.
4. Teachers will meet with students daily utilizing technology.
5. Individual services may occur on campus or remotely as appropriate and as allowable.
6. Families will complete a contract that demonstrates their commitment to learning remotely and will abide by established protocols. (i.e. daily logs of time spent in instructional activities, etc.)
7. Independent remote learning commitments will occur for at least a semester. Exceptions could be allowed based on individual circumstances.
8. Students who choose remote online learning will not participate in any in-person extracurricular or additional classroom activities. This includes all sports and other extracurricular activities.
9. Online learning will NOT look the same as our Continuous Learning Plan that we used to end the previous school year. That form of remote learning was a temporary measure.
Students/parents will need to spend significantly more time this year in the daily learning process. It is very important that our students continue to learn and grow each day within their given curriculums/courses.
10. If because of COVID cases USD 388 moves to Remote (Online) Learning, ALL school activities will be canceled during this time. This includes all sports and other extracurricular activities.
11. We are working on a plan for school lunches if schools need to move to online learning or if you choose to do online learning. We are waiting on state/federal guidance on this. Most likely, students would need to pick up their meal curbside at the designated school building and would be charged their normal lunch rate.
Can parents choose between on-site, hybrid, and remote learning for their kids?
As we start our school year, students may choose between On-site Learning and Remote (Online) Learning. If we see an increase in Covid numbers, the district and/or building will determine the learning environment status (on-site, hybrid, remote) based on current state orders, county health orders and/or local needs. Basically, parents will have two options: 1.) send kids to school according to the learning environment determined by the district and/or health officials; 2.) register for Remote (Online) Learning.
What are my options if I do not want to physically send my child to school?
You can register your student for USD 388’s Remote (Online) Learning Environment.
How will on-site learning look compared to previous years?
On-site learning will look and feel the same as previous years when it comes to teaching and learning.
There will be some modifications to schedules and other items to reduce the spread of COVID. Some of these items include:
No morning assemblies for elementary students. Instead of congregating in the same space, students will go directly to classrooms upon arrival. Parents will need to drop off students in the circle drive, please do NOT accompany your student into the building.
Junior High students need to use the JH door to enter the building and go to lockers/classroom following temperature checks. High School students need to use the front door and go to lockers/classroom following temperature checks. School breakfast will be grab-and-go and can be picked up on the way to the classroom.
Our school buildings will open their doors at 7:40 am each day. Students will NOT be allowed in the buildings prior to that time.
Water fountains will be closed. Water bottle fillers will still remain in use so students will need to bring a personal water bottle for daily use.
Lunch times will be extended to accommodate smaller groups of kids eating together, more spacing, and time for additional cleaning between groups.
Staff and students will be required to sanitize their hands on an hourly basis.
Classrooms will limit the sharing of materials and school supplies. Each student will need to have his/her own supplies to work with.
Washington Grade School students will remain in their own classroom except for specials, lunch, and recess.
Desks at Ellis Jr./Sr. high school will be sanitized between each class period of the day.
Classrooms are being organized to allow for as much social distancing as possible.
Individual care rooms have been assigned, separate from the nurse’s office, where students or employees who may have symptoms of COVID-19 or another communicable disease will wait to be evaluated or to be picked-up.
How is the district keeping students and staff safe?
Cleaning and sanitation are critical to a healthy and safe learning environment for our students and staff. Some of these additional safety items include:
Staff will be expected to self-assess their health before every school day using the KDHE provided COVID health assessment checklist.
Parents will be expected to keep your student home if they are ill. Do NOT send your student to school if they show any signs of illness. Click here for a student self-assessment checklist.
Students and staff will go through daily health checks including temperature check.
Each student will need to bring an appropriate clean face covering to school each day.
Ongoing cleaning and sanitation will occur during the school day with an emphasis on high traffic and high touch zones; deep cleaning/disinfecting will occur outside school hours.
EPA hospital grade disinfectant is used by the district.
Building use by outside groups after school hours will be minimized to reduce additional traffic and footprint in areas used for school.
Buses will be thoroughly disinfected between each route.
While on the bus, students will be required to wear face coverings and will sit one per seat, unless residing in the same household.
How will I know if the district activates the hybrid or remote learning environment?
The district will inform parents/guardians as soon as possible when the decision has been made to move from the on-site learning environment to either hybrid or remote learning through the regular emergency notification process. Please make sure your contact information is up-to-date at enrollment.
Exclusion from School
Students and employees exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 without other obvious explanations are prohibited from coming to school, and if they do come to school, they will be sent home immediately.
School districts should be familiar with the symptoms of COVID-19 based on KDHE guidance.
The current known symptoms are:
Fever (100.4 or higher).
Muscle or body aches.
Lower respiratory illness (cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing).
New loss of taste or smell.
Students and staff will be screened daily. Parents need to keep students home if they have any of these symptoms.
When will I be notified of COVID-19 contact in school?
Click here to view the district’s COVID-19 exposure guidelines. The district will work with Ellis County
Health to notify close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 patients.
Defining a Case of COVID-19 Disease and the Infectious Period
A person is considered a case of COVID-19 disease if they have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus by a diagnostic test (PCR or antigen). Based on what we currently know, a case is considered infectious two days prior to the onset of symptoms through at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms. For cases that do not have symptoms, the infectious period is considered as two days prior to the date the sample was collected through a minimum of 10 days from the date the sample was collected. Cases must remain in isolation until they have met the criteria for release from isolation set by KDHE or the local health department.
Defining a Close Contact
A person is considered a close contact of a case if they were within 6 feet of the case for 10 minutes or more or if they had exposure to secretions (for example, being coughed or sneezed on). Close contacts must remain in quarantine until they have met the criteria for release from quarantine set by KDHE or the local health department.
If a student or employee has recently traveled from a location on the KDHE Travel related Quarantine List, the student or employee is subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine starting from the day after they return to Kansas.
School Response to Student or Employee in Isolation or Quarantine
As soon as the school becomes aware of a student or employee that has been diagnosed with COVID-19 disease, the custodial staff will be informed so that all desks, lockers and workspaces of the person are thoroughly disinfected. If the school is not open when notification occurs, the custodial staff will wait 24 hours or as long as possible prior to disinfecting and instead will block off the area so that others do not have contact. However, if that is not possible or school is in session, the cleaning will occur immediately.
School staff will immediately begin compiling a list of close contacts, including names, email addresses and phone numbers. School staff will consider the two days prior to when the person started having symptoms or, if the person was asymptomatic, the two days prior to the date the sample was collected.
School personnel will identify anyone who would have been within 6 feet for 10 minutes or more or would have had direct contact with secretions. Guardians of students who have been identified as close contacts and any staff identified as close contacts should be informed immediately. Close contacts must start a 14-day mandatory quarantine period starting from the day after the last contact with the case.
The list of close contacts should be shared with the local health department for follow-up during the quarantine period. Click here to view the district’s COVID-19 exposure guidelines.
Separation While in School
Each school must have a room or space separate from the nurse’s office where students or employees who may have COVID-19 or another communicable disease will wait to be evaluated or for pick-up.
Students will be given a mask to wear. Only essential staff and students assigned to the room may enter, all will sign in so that there is a record of the persons who entered the room, and the room will be disinfected several times throughout the day. Strict social distancing is required, and staff must wear appropriate PPE. Students who are ill will be walked out of the building to their parents.
Confirmed Case of COVID-19 In the School Building
Option 1: When there is confirmation that a person infected with COVID-19 was in a school building, the school will contact the local health department immediately. As one option, the school will close the school building for a minimum of two to five days and work with the local health department to assess factors, such as the likelihood of exposure to employees and students in the building, the number of cases in the community and other factors that will determine when the building should reopen. While the school building is closed, all school activities will be cancelled or rescheduled, regardless of whether the activity was to take place in the building or another location, including extracurricular activities, before and after-school programs and field trips. Parents/students and employees will be encouraged to stay at home until more information is provided by the school or the health department.
Option 2: As another option, the school may remain open but block off areas where the person infected with COVID-19 was in the school building until the area has been cleaned thoroughly. The school should work with the local health department to assess for close contacts within students and staff and inform those who are exposed that they must start a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
The school will contact parents/students and employees and notify them that a person who tested positive for COVID-19 was in the building and encourage cooperation with the school and the local health department to trace contacts with the individual. The individual who tested positive will not be identified in communications to the school community at large.
Gatherings of staff and students
Limit the use of common spaces by multiple groups at one time. I students and staff members are in stable groups in classrooms, they should not come together in common spaces.
Pursue virtual group events, gatherings or meetings, if possible, and promote social distancing of at least 6 feet between people or groups if events are held. Limit group size to the extent possible.
Pursue virtual activities and events in lieu of student assemblies, special performances, school-wide parent meetings, and spirit nights, as possible.
Frequently touched surfaces, including hand railing, student bus seats and surfaces in the driver cockpit commonly touched by the operator should be sanitized daily. Options for cleaning buses includes wiping down all high touch surfaces with CDC approved disinfectants.
Assigned seating for students on all routes. Have individuals from the same household sit together.
Fill the bus seats at the back of the bus first, and then load to the front to avoid students walking past each other in the aisle.
Unload students from the front of the bus first to avoid students walking past each other in the aisle.
If the bus is not full, spread students out as much as possible.
Due to social distancing challenges, all staff and students must wear a mask on the bus.
Drivers should participate in a health prescreener before each work shift.
Assigned seating for students on all trips.
For activities, focus on transporting students who are competing. Work to lower the total number of students on a bus so that social distancing can occur, especially on long trips to competition.
USD 388 will follow the guidelines outlined by the Kansas State High School Activities Association as feasible within our activities. You can review these recommendations on the KSHSAA Covid 19 Resource page.
USD 388 will continually monitor the COVID-19 epidemic and modify our plans as need.