Wichita State announces graduates

Three Wyandotte County students completed a degree at Wichita State University in the fall 2020 semester.

Graduates with a grade point average of at least 3.55 received the magna cum laude award.

Graduates from Wyandotte County:

  • Josephine G. Alvey, Bachelor of Science, health management, magna cum laude.
  • Deborah V. Morris, Bachelor of Science, dental hygiene-completion, magna cum laude.
  • Myiah A. Washington, Bachelor of Arts, community-integrated marketing.

KCK school board approves 4-day-a-week return to school in April

The Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education approved a new re-entry option for April 5 at the Tuesday night, Feb. 23, board meeting.

The board adopted a staff-recommended option for in-person school, four days a week. At this time, parents could choose either in-person school or remote learning for their children.

The district would bypass the hybrid model and move into a full in-person model for those students whose families have selected the in-person model.

Under this approved model, students would attend in-person learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesdays, there would be remote learning days. There also will be cleaning of schools on Wednesdays.

Masks will be required for all the students, teachers and staff, according to district officials. The students will have clear partitions at their desks.

At elementary schools, the Health Department has stated students could be in learning pods, according to Kristen Scott, instructional improvement officer, who presented the plans.

Dr. Alicia Miguel, acting superintendent, explained that the Unified Government Health Department has loosened some of the requirements for coming back to school. Athletes no longer need to attend all the same classes together.

She said there is some discussion going on currently around the 6-feet spacing requirement, and they are waiting for a decision from the Health Department on that, possibly later this week.

Dr. Miguel also said that about 50 percent of the students have signed up to come back in person, which will have an effect on spacing in the classrooms.

Students whose families choose remote education will livestream the classes and receive the same instruction as in-person students, according to Scott.

According to Scott, there will be a five-day window for persons who selected remote education to change their option, or for persons who selected in-person learning to change their option.

The board was asked to choose between a new hybrid option and the four-day option.

Scott said there were some drawbacks to the hybrid model of two days a week in person and three days remote attendance, including that many students have connectivity issues.

The modified hybrid model rejected on Tuesday night was that one group of students would go to the classroom in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and another group in person on Thursdays and Fridays. The teachers would teach both groups simultaneously, as the at-home group would livestream.

Another hybrid model had been approved earlier by the board and now is being replaced by the four-day proposal.

Under the earlier hybrid model, teachers would not have taught students simultaneously, both in person and livestreaming, but these new proposals were modified so that they will teach them simultaneously.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the four-day re-entry plan.

There is an amount of uncertainty surrounding the April 5 return date, however.

The Kansas Legislature has proposed a bill, Senate Bill 235, that would mandate all public school districts return to school by March 26.

School board members asked what would happen if that bill passes. Wanda Brownlee Paige, a school board member, also asked if parents still have that other option of remote learning.

Dr. Miguel said they’re not very clear right now on how that would be enforced.

There is a lot of agreement currently on bringing kids back to school, and data has not shown that kids transmit the virus at a rate they thought they did last year, according to the superintendent. Dr. Miguel said she recommended the four-day plan because she knows three days of remote learning a week is not the best for kids.

Planning according to what they know now, parents will still have the option to choose remote learning, she said.

If the bill passes without any exemptions for remote learning, however, the board may have to push up the date for returning to school, according to officials.

Dr. Valdenia Winn, a school board member who is also a state legislator, asked how the state Legislature could kill local control of the school board.

Greg Goheen, school district attorney, said to him, local school boards have a constitutional right to operate the school districts, although the Legislature can dictate certain things as part of the legislative process. He said what the district does if the Legislature passes Senate Bill 235 will depend on the final language of the law. He said he hoped that the law, if it passes, would not treat students who are not back in school in person as truants.

“We are all in agreement if there is new legislation,” Dr. Miguel said, “we will always comply with the law and make it happen.”

If the bill does pass mandating the March 26 return date, the board may have to have another meeting to vote on another return to school plan, according to officials.

The school district brought back a group of kindergarten through fifth grade students earlier this week, on Feb. 22, because of connectivity issues. The district also brought back a select group of seniors on Monday. The board also will bring back a select group of middle school students on March 1.

In other action, the school board voted unanimously to approve a plan from Tammie Romstad, district athletic director, for the district to hold basketball substate postseason tournaments March 3 to 6.

The plan would allow two spectators per participant; currently, the UG restricts participants to 50 percent occupancy of the facility. Romstad estimated that two spectators per participant would be a crowd of 185 people. The gyms hold from 1,000 to 1,200 spectators, she added, and there would be room for social distancing.

Everyone attending would wear masks, she said.

Romstad said the plan to hold substates also depended upon whether the teams will win.

The meeting is online on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xBcb6KxV_8&feature=youtu.be.

School district faces many challenges

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

One of the most significant challenges for the Kansas City, Kansas, School District is that nearly 9,000 of its 21,000 students do not speak English.

That was the message that Dr. Alicia Miguel brought to a meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, Feb. 19, via Zoom. About 45 persons attended. Miguel is interim superintendent of the school district. Another challenge is that 83 percent of the district students qualify for reduced or free meals.

Dr. Alicia Miguel

And then there is the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic including the high cost of providing masks and partitions for student desks. Federal funds helped pay for $8 million of that cost; the district hopes more federal funds will come during the next three years.

Another challenge is that many of the students do not have access to the internet for distance learning. To help solve that problem, the district developed connectivity centers.

Dr. Miguel praised the cooperation of the Unified Government’s Health Department in providing vaccinations for the district’s staff. So far about 2,200 members of the staff have been vaccinated.

The Kansas City, Kansas, district has a graduation rate of 69 percent—something that Dr. Miguel says must improve.

The cost of educating students is very expensive in Kansas City, Kansas—more than $17,000 a student, according to the district’s website. When many district students who do graduate show up at Kansas City Kansas Community College, they lack basic skills in areas such as mathematics and reading.

Joe Vaught, a member of the Congressional Forum and a Realtor, suggested the district invite real estate agents to visit schools to help improve its image.

Edwin Birch, the spokesman for the district, touted the various things it does to inform the public including a direct mail newsletter and its cable television channel. Birch is a former spokesman for the Unified Government.

Dr. Miguel said she is opposed to bills in the Kansas Legislature that provide public money for tuition to private schools. Private schools would not be accountable, she said.

Dr. Miguel said students will return to classrooms starting with a select group of grade school and senior high students Monday, Feb. 22; a select group of middle school students Monday, March 1; and early childhood students Monday, April 5. Many students returning Feb. 22 and March 1 have had connectivity problems that affected remote learning.

Dr. Miguel, a native of Argentina, was the district’s executive director of early childhood education before becoming interim superintendent.

The Congressional Forum is part of the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce.

Murrel Bland is former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West. Opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of this publication.