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Two large school systems in western Kansas will reopen with safety precautions, one going hybrid

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SOUTHWEST, Kan. (KSNW) – The majority of western Kansas schools look to reopen at their original start dates in August. 

In Garden City, the school board met Monday to discuss their plans.

Garden City Public Schools is one of the largest school districts in southwest Kansas with nearly 7,300 students.

Their schools will welcome students back into the classrooms officially on September 1 for a full day of class. However, students that are entering elementary, fifth, seventh, ninth, and tenth grades as well as students new to the district will start school on August 31 with a half-day orientation.

In order to keep their students safe, the district is taking several precautions. 

While in school, all students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks.

There will also be hand sanitizer stations, hand washing every hour on the hour, social distancing on busses and in classrooms, and no family members will be allowed within school buildings.

The school system also has a series of phases that will be fluid with the rise or drop in COVID-19 cases. The plan is split up into six phases and will range from normal, face-to-face traditional learning to a complete shutdown of schools and a transition to remote learning.

“Our teachers are excited to be coming back, they want to do it in a safe manner. They understand that we have a plan in place. They just want to be as prepared as possible,” said Roy Cessna, Public Information Coordinator for Garden City Public Schools.

The district is also offering a remote learning platform for any students or parents with health and safety concerns.

As for Liberal, another large district in the area with nearly 5,000 students, the schools plan to reopen on August 27 and will follow the safety precautions recommended by the governor.

A survey of the community showed the overall majority wanted students back in the classroom this fall.

For the majority of schools in the district, classes will be back to traditional learning. But learning at the high school level will look different.

Following a planning team meeting made up of community members, school faculty, and even students, the liberal school district will now offer hybrid classes for their high school students for the upcoming school year.

Students will spend a half-day in school learning in a traditional format and the other half-day learning at home online.

The school will also offer hands-on labs every Wednesday.

School officials say the hybrid format is to help with social distancing between students.

“Kids want to be back in school. That was overwhelmingly from our students that were on our planning teams. They, they missed that contact, social contact with each other, they missed the contact with teachers,” said Todd Carter, Liberal District Administrator.

The school says that if COVID-19 infection rates within the community stabilize they will then consider transitioning to full-time traditional learning.

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