There are numerous big issues and countless details to address in order to deliver safe and supportive instruction in schools during the COVID pandemic.
In mid-July, the Kansas State Department of Education endorsed “Navigating Change,” a 1100-page document that outlines guidelines for school districts as they plan for schools to resume in the fall. For each cluster of grade levels, the report articulates ways to address Access and Equity, Competencies, Assessment, and Implementation. In addition, there are sections about Operations and Funding. The document seeks to give guidance on how to keep students, faculty, and staff safe while providing appropriate learning support to all students.
Shannon Kimball, president of the USC 497 School Board, outlined the “Navigating Change” document, explained the current decisions that the local school board has made, and made a few predictions about where the district is headed.
Kimball said that USD 497 has developed three options for achieving the state-required 1,116 minutes of contact time for every student: traditional in-person instruction; remote teaching/learning; and a hybrid of these two models. Work groups have devoted summer hours to devising these options. There have been surveys of parents and of faculty/staff to understand their points of view.
At their July 27 meeting, school district leaders decided to postpone the beginning of the school year to September 8 and to provide virtual instruction only during the first six weeks of the academic year. A local task force will coordinate and communicate as conditions evolve in the community.
Kimball assumes there will be a re-set by the end of September, but there will be no easy decisions.
Derek Kwan, director of the Lied Center in Lawrence, explained the process that he and his staff use to book a winning season of programs. The goal is to devise a selection of options where every potential patron can find something that appeals to their taste. The task is to juggle quality with relevance, Kwan says. A successful selection will bring the necessary critical mass of audiences to the Lied.
A judgment about quality involves research about what awards and positive reviews a program has received in other places.
Relevance is an educated assessment of the needs of the various stakeholders that the Lied serves: the Lawrence community and schools; KU and its students; and supporters such as Friends of the Lied, Kansas Public Radio, Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning, and local businesses.
As Lawrence is a secondary market near Kansas City, the Lied seeks to avoid over-saturating the market. In addition, they must consider the size and cost of the production itself as well as exclusivity concerns.
Jerry Jost returned to tell the story of the Kansas Land Trust once again. At this presentation, he highlighted the various types of protected lands: farmland, prairie, woodlands, streams, and wildlife areas. The Trust protects 77 lands in 22 Kansas counties covering 39,000 acres.
Many Rotarians had not visited the Lawrence Nature Park on the Lichtwardt Conservation Easement in northwest Lawrence off of Folks Road. Its trails wander through 37 acres of woodlands.
To find prairie and wildflowers, visit Akin Easement south and east of Lawrence.
Other Douglas County areas held by the Trust include the private lands of Earles Woodland, located east of Baldwin City, and the Hamilton Farmland near Eudora. A list of places you can visit is available on the Kansas Land Trust website.
Despite the shortened session, the Kansas Statehouse was full of action during the recently-completed legislative session, according to Stephen Koranda, award-winning Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service.
Koranda highlighted the arguments that arose related to Governor Kelly’s closure of the State in the face of the coronavirus. The recent spike in infections will fan differences of opinion, as will strategies to manage the projected 8% shortfall in the State budget. He also commented on recent events in the State Department of Labor, on the new vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court, and on Kansas competitions for national office.
Koranda encouraged everyone to express his or her opinions by voting in the upcoming primary and general elections.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters serves Douglas and several other counties in northeast Kansas. The Northeast Area Director is Jeff Jack, a retired juvenile court judge and now an enthusiastic advocate for the non-profit.
Jack explained that in Kansas, the program focus is on at-risk youth ages 5 to 17. These youths face adversity for one reason or another and need an adult mentor and role model. About 85% of “littles” are from single-parent homes and/or live in poverty. Sixty percent come from environments involving drug and alcohol abuse; 40% have witnessed domestic violence; and 30% have an incarcerated parent.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters finds that 52% of the young people in the program are able to finish school, go on to further training or education, and become strong wage earners. Participants tend to avoid violence and drug/alcohol use.
Fifty-two “Littles” are waiting for a match in Douglas County. the program needs not only volunteers but also referals and contributions. Money raised in Douglas County stays in Douglas County, Jack declared. Two fundraisers are in planning stages: a Disc Golf Tournament on July 25 and a Gingerbread House Gala in December.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters creates life-long and life-changing friendships. One Rotary member noted that his wife was a Big Sister many years ago and that she still keeps in touch with her “Little” who has grown up to become a successful young woman.