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Coronavirus

With emphasis on seniors, Wichita schools will roll out plans for at-home learning

Wichita schools Superintendent Alicia Thompson reassured parents Tuesday that the district will provide learning and free meals to students amid statewide school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Thank you to the Wichita Public Schools employees who have been faithfully working this week to make plans to serve meals to our community’s children and to provide continuous learning opportunities for all students,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s news conference came after the Sedgwick County public health officer issued a stay-at-home order that goes into effect Wednesday. Kansas health officials have reported seven known cases of COVID-19 in Sedgwick County and 98 statewide, but local experts estimate as many as 1,000 people could be infected in the Wichita area.

Gov. Laura Kelly last week shut down school buildings for the rest of the school year.

Thompson said the district’s top priority is providing continuous learning opportunities. Schools will offer paper packets and online resources during phase one learning, which starts next week. The district is developing a curriculum and will provide more detailed information on Friday about plans for the rest of the school year.

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“Teachers, if you are hearing this today, you do not need to begin developing lessons or be worried about content development for your students,” Thompson said. “Next week, building staff will begin to learn more about their role to support the continuous learning plans for their students.

“And parents, please don’t worry about whether you have all of the information necessary to help your child at home. We will provide guidance and resources to help you engage your child.”

Thompson said teachers will be working and available to help students and parents. The district has not worked out whether computers or other technological devices will be available to students without internet access.

“We are putting emphasis on our students that are seniors so that they can make sure that they have the things that they need to be able to graduate” and apply for scholarships, Thompson said.

Phase one will be simpler than additional phases expected to be rolled out later.

“This is very complex when you’re working with 50,000 students and we don’t want to just roll everything all out at one time and not be able to manage it,” Thompson said.

She said many people have asked about retrieving personal property from lockers and elsewhere.

“Due to the Sedgwick County stay-at-home order, access to schools to pick up personal items will be extremely limited,” she said. “Elementary access to buildings will not be allowed at this time, but personal items will not be disturbed. Once the stay-at-home order has been lifted, we will develop a plan to allow building access to families.”

“Middle and high school students will be contacted by their building principal, and each principal will coordinate their building’s system for allowing access in a safe manner next week. Please be patient with us.”

Thompson referred people to the district’s social media pages and website, usd259.net, for answers to frequently asked questions. Additional questions should be asked by emailing info@usd259.net or calling 316-273-4000.

Free meal service for people 18 and younger starts Wednesday at 18 locations in and around Wichita. Meals will be provided while supplies last from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We prefer that families drive up and we deliver to cars,” said Fabian Armendariz, director of the operations division. “Children must be present in order to receive meals. This is a federal requirement in order for us to provide this type of service.”

Students and parents may also walk or ride city buses to meal distribution sites.

Armendariz said the district will review the number of meals issued at the various sites at the end of the week to see if changes need to be made for the stay-at-home order.

Meal distribution locations:

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