USD 443 Board of Education rules on when to start school

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe

The Dodge City Unified School District 443 Board of Education met on July 27, for its third meeting this month, to discuss procedural plans for when students return to school for the 2020-21 school year.

After a long deliberation, the BOE voted 6 to 1, with member Pamela Preston dissenting, to start school on Aug. 25 for students, while teachers will report to work on Aug. 17.

Superintendent of Schools Fred Dierksen said that, according to a faculty survey, about 97% teachers said they were ready to return to school.

The remaining almost 13% of educators that are not ready will have the option to consider the Remote Live Learning model, pending their medical physician’s confirmation on their health concerns.

Dierksen presented the initial draft of the Return to School plan for discussion, with the finalized plan to be presented for approval Aug. 10, when the BOE meets again.

This week, a student survey filled with procedure options will go out.

“We are not in politics, we are in education,” said Dierksen. “We are trying to provide the best structure we can for the students of USD 443.”

The initial pages of the draft, as presented by safety security director Shawn Lampe with minor detail, cover safety measures such as masks, social distancing, personal hygiene and sanitization.

It talked about travel procedures and how to report and deal with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Lampe is in constant contact with the Ford County Health Department, as they determine what changes need to be made to benefit teaching staff and students.

According to Simeon Russell, executive director of business and finance, anti-COVID-19 supplies, specifically hand sanitizers, are plentiful, with more being ordered to prepare for the school year.

Bus transportation will adhere to assigned seating and everyone riding the bus will be required to wear masks.

Plans for feeding students are still being workshopped and are subject to light procedure differences per each individual school, but the preparation of food will reportedly be the same as schools work to maintain safe distances between student and staff during mealtimes.

Presenting the educational procedure portion of the plan, Scott Springston said all teachers in the district will be trained in Google Classroom for the convenience of the concerns of students, parents, and teachers.

“This is not a packet, it’s a learning management system,” Springston said.

Throughout August, teachers will be paid to train in Google Classroom.

Remote learning is going to be a quarterly commitment, and if teachers choose to educate that way, they will be expected to do so for nine weeks.

This ultimately led into a discussion, presented by Ray Wipf, about the prospect of hot spots for students, so that those without home internet access who need to take part in remote learning via Google Classroom, will be able to participate in class without falling behind due to inaccessibility.

The estimated cost to start a bid for these hot spots is $100,000, yet no motion could be made until it can be revisited with more finalized details, possibly at a special BOE meeting.

The motion to approve SmartNet Renewals, which allows the overnight replacement of crucial network systems equipment, at a cost of $49,896.82, was passed unanimously.

The motion to approve the purchase of a Quill brand school supply bundle was passed 7-0 and will be paid for from a previous board-approved donation courtesy of National Beef at $53,518.02.

The motion to approve the donation of salvageable items from the soon-to-be demolished former admission building, including a cornerstone, a time capsule, a clock and the stained glass from the second-floor skylight, to the Ford County Historical Society, was passed 7-0.

Finally, the motion to approve the negotiation for the sale of building trades house was passed 7-0, with a final offer to be revisited by the BOE at another meeting.