Wichita parents, staff weigh in on tentative plans for the new school year

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Changes are in store for students at Wichita Public Schools heading into the school year. The district released a tentative plan Wednesday.

Some of the bigger changes included optional masks, but all public health measures like travel restrictions will be followed. Vaccinations are not required, but strongly encouraged, and COVID-19 testing will still be available by appointment.

The plan goes into effect next Tuesday. However, the school board said there are still details that need to be decided before the first day of school gets closer.

“There is no great option for us this next yea,r and we are just kinda trying to do our best to figure out what the best available option is and what compromises we are going to have to make,” said Asia Gormley-Siemens, a local mother of two children.

She said she’s looking closely at the guidelines as she decides if she will enroll her future kindergartener.

Gormley-Siemens has a 5 year old who is ready to go to school, but she says she doesn’t think Wichita Public School’s new school year plan would keep him safe.

“Since there is no vaccine requirement and no masking requirement and elementary students can not be vaccinated by the time the semester starts, I just feel like I’m disillusioned, disappointed,” she added.

Dr. Alicia Thompson, superintendent of Wichita Public Schools, said the district announced their plan after discussions with stakeholders in the community and a survey that went out to parents and staff.

“We wanted to know what was most important to maintain the safest possible learning and work environments that we can support in the fall,” Dr. Thompson said.

Thompson stated that safety, learning, and closing the education gap are all priorities when students get back to the classroom.

“Walking through our schools just last year when the hallways echoed was a very strange sensation and as you walk through hallways, and you hear the voices of kids, you hear active learning going on, that is a very positive feel,” said Terri Moses, director of safety and environmental services for Wichita Public Schools.

Gormley-Siemens said she wants her child in the classroom, but is now considering otherwise.

“We are all in this together, and it just feels like people are being left to their own devices,” she said.

Thousands of parents and staff filled out the school’s survey for next year and 16% of parents provided additional feedback asking masks to be optional while 14% of parents mentioned wanting masks to be required.

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