USD 443 planning to start school August 20

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe

Dodge City Public Schools announced they are intending to start school on Aug. 20, though guidelines are subject to change.

“We’re being encouraged by the State Department of Education to start school, face-to-face, as close to normal as possible, and that is exactly the gear we’re in right now,” said Superintendent of Schools Fred Dierksen.

The State Department of Education formed a committee, and on July 9, are expected to send out a rough draft of recommendations to be applied by USD 443 for the year, including social distancing, sanitizing and further anti-COVID 19 modifications.

Dierksen said as they wait for that information, USD 443 is putting together their own ideas on what they need to do to take care of their district of over 7,000 kids to the best of their ability, while realizing there are impossible factors.

Confirmed procedures going forward with the school year include:

— Parents will not be required to make their child wear face masks on school grounds, making them optional.

— Limiting large groups in a manageable way, that may include staggering lunch periods and recess times so that fewer people are in an area.

“It really comes down to time and space,” said Dierksen. “We’re trying to limit our time we expose ourselves to each other, and we’re trying to keep as much distance as we possibly can.”

Dierksen, said that the Department of Safety and Security, led by Shawn Lampe, will be the focal point for guidelines as they come in.

Scenarios and how to manage the different outcomes will all go through the Ford County Health Department and will be dealt with case by case, including the possibility of a student developing symptoms of COVID-19.

Scenarios for a confirmed case within the school could constitute putting a whole class in quarantine and tracing back carriers or other family and quarantining them as well.

The Continuous Learning packets will not be made available during the 2020-2021 school year, in favor of the aspect “Remote Learning Environment.”

If utilized the concept of a “Remote Learning Environment” platform, separate from the auxiliary education program, will allow students to participate in regular class via technology alongside students that are physically attending school.

“There’s going to be some blended situations,” said USD 443 Public Information Officer, Kerri Baker. “It could very well be someone did not test positive, but they could be quarantined because they’ve been exposed, there’s several situations where that will be addressed.”

Dierksen said, traditional school is not liable to close again, unless they are required to, with a second wave of COVID-19, as the most likely perceived reason.

On July 16, upon the release of the final version of the recommendations, USD 443 will gather its various staff and faculty for a series of meetings, to deliberate what their finalized plans for the 2020-2021 school year will be and how to implement them come Aug. 20.