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How will rural schools fare this upcoming school year?

Coronavirus in Kansas

GRAY COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – COVID-19 has hit the school system hard. Remote learning, concerns about safety, and now delays.

Ingalls Schools is a Pre-K through 12 school system with nearly 250 students. As the upcoming school year quickly approaches, they are preparing to have students in the classrooms come September.

Extra wash stations, social distancing, and new cleaning units to fog classrooms are just a few ways the district is preparing.

They also plan to disinfect rooms after every class and clean buses after every route.

“We will have a plan where the kids will wash their hands every hour,” said Randy Rockhold, superintendent of Ingalls Schools.

Their goal is to keep kids safely in school. But that safety does come with a price.

The school could expect upwards of nearly $218,000 in expenses.

Those expenses would go toward the essential needs of the school, such as hiring a nurse, purchasing an air filtration system, or supplying nearly 90 Chromebooks for remote learners, and nearly $7,000 will go to hand sanitizer alone.

“It’s a fairly substantial amount of money, and there’s no way you can avoid a lot of those costs,” said Rockhold.

The superintendent says they will do what it takes to keep staff and students healthy.

“If we can get our kids here and have normalcy. You know, if we can keep our people safe, and if we can meet all the needs, academic, social, emotional, character, we will feel good about things,” said Rockhold.

After speaking with the superintendent he says nearly 70% of the community wants the school to open, but another 30% is uncertain. 

As for the Cimarron school system, just six miles east of Ingalls, they are also preparing for the school year.

They have a plan of action to prepare for different waves of the virus.

For the past month, the Cimarron school district has been developing a safety plan in preparation for the upcoming school year. 

They have it broken down into four tiers. These tiers are aimed at keeping nearly 700 students and 110 employees healthy.

Tier one indicates there is a low-level risk of COVID-19 and the school day will look normal.

Tier two shows that there is a slight risk. Mask wearing will be encouraged, there will be some social distancing, and sanitization will increase.

In tier three, the risk has heightened further. The school will enforce full social distancing, class sizes will be limited, and an alternative schedule will be put in place.

Finally, tier four is code red, meaning COVID-19 cases are spiking in Gray County. The school will be shut down and students will be transitioned fully to online learning

“It allows us to have continuity between school and remote learning. And if we plan it correctly, I think that we would be able to be very fluid and very flexible between the two,” said Mike Waters, superintendent of Cimarron Schools.

Both schools aim to continue to provide a quality education through this unprecedented time and will continue to make modifications as time progresses.

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