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School districts learning insights as school year wraps to prepare for fall term

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 9:59 PM CDT
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WINFIELD, Kan. (KWCH) - It will likely be a radically different school year for many Kansas K-12 students this fall in a good way.

However, the pandemic will still loom large as schools work to address the impacts.

“We were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a backslide as we may of thought,” said Winfield USD 465 Superintendent Nathan Reed.

Winfield School District is laying out its plans for the fall using what they’ve learned this most recent school year and last year. Assisting with that is testing data include from ACTs.

Reed said, “I’m glad that we were able to have those assessments, so we know how we need to prepare, what we need to prepare heading into next year.”

Overall, the data presented at Monday night’s school board meeting shows test scores decreased in the core academic areas. It was mirrored by some neighboring school districts.

“For instance, with our standardized testing, we noticed that from last summer to the start of the school year was more of a slide than fall to winter and winter to spring, so that’s encouraging,” said Reed.

As districts look toward the fall, Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards said every district would face a different situation as some schools that saw little impact and others were more severely impacted.

“Districts, where they are now, is in part going to depend on where they were previously. What their experience had been, but there certainly are very common themes,” said Associate Executive Director KASB Mark Tallman.

Tallman said some common themes include learning loss, time out of school and individual student impacts from quarantines, health issues and other factors.

At Winfield, Reed said for the fall, social-emotional needs will take center stage in the district.

He said, “Face some kind of trauma with the pandemic. Students, staff, parents, community members, so we want to focus on our relationship building.”

Another resource that Winfield and other school districts will have going into this fall semester is additional pandemic relief dollars that they’ll be able to spend over the course of the next few years.

“Once in a career opportunity to have resources like that for our students and to address the challenges created by the pandemic,” Reed said.

Kansas had received more than $1 billion in federal relief from K-12 schools.

“In some sense, there is flexibility in how these dollars could be used, but they have to follow federal guidelines that really insist on tying back to the pandemic,” Tallman said.

The Kansas State Department of Education is distributing the funds. The majority of the money is distributed using the Title 1 formula, which allocated money to where the need is greatest.

“Our highest poverty districts will be receiving the most dollars. They’re in many cases districts that have had probably higher loss associated with kids who were already to some extent at risk to start with,” Tallman said.

Reed said Winfield is partnering with Orion Service Center in Clearwater to launch a virtual school option this fall for families who want that choice.

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