When I left for the State Basketball Tournament on Thursday, I was informed that I needed to stop and grocery shop before returning home. I knew I wouldn’t want to take the time after driving any distance so I decided to stop by Walmart in Dodge City the morning after the tournament abruptly ended. While shopping, I realized the importance of bulk purchasing and how grateful I am that we buy our school’s toilet paper for the entire year in July. I had to take a picture of that aisle out of disbelief. I say that to make this point….we are not going to overreact, BUT, for the foreseeable future we will be cautious and it will be necessary for us to take steps which will undoubtedly result in a new normal. These changes will result in some inconvenience and irritation for everyone involved. Our highest priority is the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and communities.
     USD 223 will follow all protocols and procedures put in place by the Kansas State Department of Education which is working closely with KDHE. Currently, those protocols are fluid and changing frequently as more knowledge is obtained. Current measures being put in place are….
- Limiting gathering size or postponing events that typically have a large number of people in attendance
- Limiting continuous interaction time among individuals in groups numbering 30 or more
- We will have an altered cafeteria schedule implemented beginning Monday when students return to school. Building administration are making those schedules this weekend
- Large groups of students will not be allowed to congregate before school and during lunch      period
- Cancel or reschedule all evening activities (with large group attendance) through the end of    March
- Copious amounts of hand sanitizer will be supplied at school and in the classrooms
- Increased diligence in cleaning surfaces that students come into contact with
- Sending anyone with an active cough home
- Regular handwashing breaks
- Students and staff that traveled to a “hot spot” over Spring Break will be asked to be evaluated by county health authorities before returning to school full-time
- If you, as an individual, have questions or concerns I ask that you contact the district or building office staff directly. Please do not post negative comments or questions on our social media post threads. Any pertinent questions that you call and ask us directly will be answered with an additional post. Considering the current situation, we cannot afford the time to monitor those posts and any negative threads started will be taking time and energy away from where our efforts need to be focused. Simply, I will have no choice but to remove anyone making such comments, and those individuals with children in school will be communicated with separately. Any questions or concerns need to happen directly with administrators or office staff for the immediate future. 
      We have been told a couple of things with certainty 1) If there is an identified case in one of our buildings that the school will be shut down a minimum of fourteen days. After fourteen days, the situation will be reassessed. 2) At this time, there is no intention of altering the spring sports schedule.
     After lunch on Monday, administration and supervisors will meet to finalize a more permanent plan going forward. At that time, anything that will affect our normal routine will be shared as soon as possible. Additionally, area superintendents are communicating and making changes that will keep our childrens exposure risk minimal. We will continue communicating any changes as quickly as we can while trying to keep schedules and routines as normal as possible. 
     Currently, as we try to catch up we are in a reactive mode as this has all happened so quickly. We are doing what we can to change that and become proactive as we try to get in front of this situation. Please realize that our directives from the state are changing daily which makes this very difficult. Since this is so sudden and dramatic we will undoubtedly take some precautions or make changes that, in hindsight, will look silly or unnecessary. Unfortunately, that cannot always be avoided in this type of situation. When those instances are realized they will be rectified as quickly as possible. I simply don’t know at this time what our new normal will look like for the next nine weeks. I do ask for your patience and as much understanding as possible until that new normal is established. In return, I will do what I can to ensure transparency and communicating any changes as quickly as possible.
     I can say that what is currently transpiring in the world of education are situations that I never dreamed I would deal with as an administrator. It is heart-breaking to see opportunities taken away from young men and women when you know the struggles and sacrifices they have endured chasing a goal. Although, I do see the relevance of the adages “better safe than sorry” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” in dealing with our current reality. It is still a bitter pill to swallow.
     We will be inconvenienced and we will be frustrated. We will also come out of this better and stronger than before, just like with every other hardship we have had to endure before this.

John Whetzal
Superintendent of Schools
USD 223 Barnes-Hanover-Linn