The Gradual Return of Students After a Year


Almost a year has passed since North High students were released for spring break, not knowing that, for many, it would be the last time they would be in the school’s halls for a while.

What was at first an extension of a seemingly normal spring break turned into months of education being done completely remote.

Only recently in January did some students return to the building with the hybrid learning model, in which those that chose face to face learning during the enrollment process could come back two days of the week, with Wednesday remaining asynchronous, and the other two days staying remote.

Now, the USD 259 District has announced that all in person students will attend school in person four days a week, with Wednesday still being full remote for all students. They will slowly return and will still have to take precautions.

The plan will be executed over the course of several weeks and is to begin March 1st with the face to face seniors. Other grades will follow in the weeks afterwards and eventually failing remote students will be invited back. This gradual return allows staff to test plans and procedures for more students at once and more time in case there are issues that need to be fixed. The planned schedule is as follows

March 1             Face to Face Seniors

March 8            Face to Face Freshmen

March 15           Face to Face Juniors

March 29          Face to Face Sophomores

The order of the return of students was decided by district leadership for all schools.

Several factors played into the decision of allowing the gradual return of students. The first, and most important, is the steady decline of positive Covid cases in Sedgwick county. The second is the numerous amounts of students, parents, and teachers telling the district that remote learning is not for every student, of which I’m sure many readers can attest to. Finally, mental health professionals state that students need the social interaction that in person education provides and remote learning lacks.

If all the students who chose face to face were to attend the four-day week then North will be looking at having around 1,100 at the same time.

As for what this means in terms of changes for those that have already been going in person in the hybrid learning model, other than more days, lunch may change too. There will continue to be two lunches but if the number of students exceeds the limit of those that can be safely served and seated then each lunch will be split in half so each grade will eat separately. If such efforts are not enough to ensure the safety of students, then more modifications will be made.

One concern parents, students, and teachers may still have is the possibility of Covid cases rising again.

Principal Stephanie Wasko eases these concerns.

“District and building leaders will keep a careful watch on COVID cases and COVID numbers as students return to school in person.  Schools that are determined to have high number of COVID cases (this number has been determined by district leaders and health professionals) could be required to return to remote learning for a period of time to allow for the outbreak to subside.  Individual schools may be required to return to remote due to high numbers of cases but unless numbers increase to dangerous levels throughout the district, the only schools that would be impacted would be those with high numbers of cases.  (All schools would not return to full remote if one school has high COVID numbers – just the school with high numbers would return to full remote.)”

Students who have chosen in-person will still have the option to only attend two days, check in online when needed, or stay completely remote, though it is recommended to go to school all four days. Those who are remote will continue to do so.

With this return, there is a hope for a future that resembles a more normal school year.

“We are hoping that the return to school in the fall will be closer to normal with students attending in person,” Wasko said.  “However, there will likely still be a need to wear face masks, maintain social distance, and sanitize frequently.”

However, we still have a long way to go before that can become a reality and go back to the elusive normal we all miss.

The first step is vaccinations.

“Teachers are currently being vaccinated and the hope is that all district staff who wish to take the vaccination have been able to do so soon.  Unfortunately, we do not control the supply of vaccines nor can we control the distribution of the vaccines, but we trust that vaccinations will be available and distributed in the manner that has been shared with district leaders,” Wasko said.

As for the dates by which there will be a widespread vaccination of students, it is still undetermined with some estimates ranging from early May to fall of next school year.