USD 400 Board Approves Post-Holiday Return

On December 28, 2020, the USD 400 Board of Education held a Special Meeting to address a proposal made by the Smoky Valley Administrative team regarding the learning model for students after the holiday break.  After careful consideration of the many perspectives related to the issue, the Board agreed with the Administrative team’s recommendation.

It’s safe to say that we all want our students back in school because we know that is the most effective way for them to learn, however the health and safety of our students, staff, families, and communities is also critical in our ability to provide a rigorous education.  Striking that balance between safety and core educational tenets led the Administrative team to recommend the following:

January 4 through January 8

All Students PreK-12: Remote Learning

Because we realize families and students travel and interact with others outside of their regular circles, and many health officials predict a jump in infections after the holiday break, the Administrative team and Board of Education felt it prudent to give students and staff a week to allow any infections or quarantines to remain localized to the home.  This should also allow for a smooth transition as our staff prepares for students to return the next week.

January 11

Soderstrom (PreK-4) and SVMS (5-6):  Full return to school, All day

These grade levels will be cohorting (staying within smaller groups within their classrooms as much as possible) to prevent potential spread and limit the number of students and staff quarantined in case an infection occurs.  Data has shown that spread in younger students is limited, and cohorting, combined with masks and handwashing, does an excellent job of mitigating spread of the virus.

January 11 through January 21

SVMS (7-8) and SVHS (9-12):  Hybrid Learning Model (Every 7-12 student every day, but for half a day)

Using cohorting for limiting exposure to students within a building becomes much more complex for our 7-12 students because of the mixing that occurs from class period to class period.  The alternative to cohorting is social distancing, but providing the appropriate social distancing in our limited space means reducing the number of students within a classroom for a class period.  Social distancing, combined with masks and handwashing will mitigate any potential quarantining issues so that in the event of a minor outbreak, the number of students affected will be minimal.  

Students have been assigned to a morning or afternoon session, so they will be able to attend and work face to face with their teacher daily, but still work from home on lessons.  The Hybrid learning model also has the added benefit of providing some important in-person contact as we close out the semester later in the month.

January 25

Soderstrom (PreK-4), SVMS (5-8) and SVHS (9-12):  Full return to school, All day

We are targeting this date to have everyone back as we start the second semester.  

As you all know, based upon specific conditions and the health and safety of our students and staff, plans are fluid and subject to change.  Please show your support for our students and staff by pledging to: 

  • Wear a mask when in public places, your workplace, and when around others outside of your immediate household contacts. 

  • Maintain physical distancing – at least 6 feet – from others outside of your immediate household. 

  • Avoid large gatherings of people. 

  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer. 

  • Do not leave your home if you are sick or not feeling well. 

  • Perhaps opt for restaurant take-out instead of in-person dining.

  • Encourage your friends and family to also participate in these risk mitigation strategies. 

Tracking infections is critical to our mitigation efforts.  Please make sure to contact Nurse Jessica Morel to report a positive student case (785-227-4254, ext. 4444).

Have a Happy and very safe New Year!