Wichita schools to stay with current learning plan because of coronavirus situation

After a discussion about rising numbers of COVID-19 in the community, Wichita school board members voted Monday night to stay with the current system of learning for students in USD 259.   The decision will keep elementary students in the classroom, while middle school and high school students will stay on remote learning.

The district was planning to move middle school and high school students to a “blended” system that would have them in the classroom two days a week and in remote learning for three days, and that system was to begin Thursday.

Dr. Paul Teran with a Kansas COVID Workgroup told board members that school-based transmission of the coronavirus appears to be low compared to community transmission rates.   He said children in schools aren’t driving the spread of the virus, but adult behaviors in the community are contributing to the spread.   Dr. Teran said closing schools would have a minimal impact on the community transmission rate, but masks and limits on large gatherings will be more effective in lowering the community spread.

School superintendent Alicia Thompson raised concerns about staffing and said some individual buildings might have to be closed to go to all remote learning until staffing levels are back up.

Board member Stan Reeser said the numbers of COVID-19 will get worse and will affect buildings at some point.   He believes staying with the current learning system will buy time for the district to come up with strategies to put into place after the winter break.

The board voted 5-2 to stay with the current system.   The yes votes were board president Sheril Logan, vice president Julie Hedrick, Stan Reeser, Ernestine Krehbiel, and Ron Rosales.  Board members Mike Rodee and Ben Blankley voted no.