August 19, 2021
Despite the many challenges we are facing right now, this school year has started off about as well as it possibly could. We are uniquely blessed in Hesston with amazing teachers, support staff, and great kids.
The primary purpose of this communication is to share an overview of our Gating Criteria, which the Board of Education will review on Monday, August 23. Our school district leaders have been working to establish an updated Gating Criteria for this school year that is similar to the format we used during the 2020-21 school year, where we establish color-coded zones for different levels of mitigation of COVID-19. This draft document shows primary and secondary indicators that we plan to use as a guide to make decisions about safety protocols over the next 6 weeks. We have limited it to the next 6 weeks because we want to be able to adjust to changing conditions, and much can change in that time period. It is also important for everyone to keep in mind that we are using this as a guide, and we need to maintain flexibility as we interpret data, especially as we look at internal district data as a primary indicator.
Over the past few weeks, we have asked for feedback on our Back to School Plan. For many in our community, there is a great deal of anxiety for our students who are age 5-11 and are not currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Many of these parents have expressed concern that masks are not being worn in our K-6 classrooms.
Should we need to move to Yellow or Orange, we may ask parents to consider having their K-6 students wear a mask during the school day, primarily in targeted situations where transmission has occurred or is most likely. We know some of our youngest students will not be able to wear masks, and our intention is to continue making this an option for all. It is important for everyone to understand that mandating masks in school will not prevent transmission of COVID-19, but we do believe they could help reduce transmission in combination with our other mitigation efforts.
While our emphasis at this time is our K-6 students who are not eligible for a vaccine, we also want to recognize that if we see transmission in grades 7-12, we will make adjustments at those grade levels, as well. Flexibility and Adaptability are two core tenets of our Back to School Plan, and we will communicate with you should we feel adjustments are necessary.
These past few weeks have been some of the toughest I’ve ever experienced as a school leader. Folks have strong feelings about what we should be doing right now to address COVID-19, and our goal, as school leaders, is to create the most optimal learning environment possible for our kids. While some will not agree with our direction, we are going to do everything we can to use the best information we have available to make decisions. We love our kids and want what is best for them, and everything we do is with their best interests in mind. Please bear with us for this stretch of time, and we will get through this challenge as a community unified in our desire to see our young people learn, grow, and become the very best they can possibly be.
Ben Proctor, Superintendent