WICHITA, KS — This Monday, January 11, 2021 the Wichita Board of Education will be hosting its regular meeting at 6p.m. During this meeting the biggest topic that will be discussed is the returning of students to onsite school. This is after a rise in community COVID-19 cases and staff shortages because of quarantine.

The email says that the “administration is considering a recommendation” that would bring elementary school students back on Jan. 13, pre-K students back on Jan. 14 and then a blended model for middle and high school would start Jan. 25. The blended model would have different groups of students learning in person on different days.

“Families will not see any changes if they selected the remote learning model for their student, are enrolled in Education Imagine Academy, or have a student who is already onsite being served through a temporary services plan,” the email says.

Staff would return Jan. 13. A representative from the United Teacher of Wichita union did not immediately respond to a call from The Eagle.

Terri Moses, Wichita school’s director of safety and environmental services, said teachers miss their students and want to come back but safely. The driver behind the recommendation is to allow flexibility for students who learn better in-person versus remote. She said the district sent everyone home last month because of a problem with staff availability due to quarantine from possible exposure, not because of rampant COVID-19 cases in the schools.

When asked if returning students are just going to lead to more cases and quarantine, Moses said she is not jumping to that conclusion. “We haven’t seen the spread within our schools,” she said. “We’ve seen community spread.”

The district’s data show that prior to the start of class, staff was diagnosed with COVID-19 at a rate slightly lower than Sedgwick County as a whole. Once classes started and before the district went entirely remote, school staff got COVID-19 at a rate about 96% higher than the community.

If the Board of Education votes to approve having students return to onsite learning, the district will send information to families after the meeting Monday night. Elementary families will need to be prepared to shift learning models within the week. You can watch the meeting live on Cox Cable channel 20, WPS-TV online (www.usd259.org/WPSTVonline), or get live feeds through Twitter (@wichitausd259).

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