OSAWATOMIE — Osawatomie USD 367 Superintendent Justin Burchett said the district has achieved several goals with its continuous learning plan.
Osawatomie USD 367, as well as districts across the state, had to adopt off-site learning initiatives when school buildings statewide were ordered to close in mid-March in response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Now in the final days of the semester, the superintendent reflected on the challenges of the final two months of the school year — from keeping students engaged to successfully serving thousands of meals curbside through its foodservice program.
“Our No. 1 priority was to make sure we found all of our kids, reconnect with them and get them engaged,” Burchett said. “We have really stressed for our staff to communicate with students. We don’t have any students that we can’t communicate with. We found all of them. We’ve made contact with all of them.
“They may not always be doing everything we want them to do, but we’ve been able to reach out and touch every kid, every family and know that we’ve had contact with them,” he said in late April.
The district recently conducted three surveys targeted at families, students and staff. About 70 percent of families in the district responded to the survey.
“When we surveyed our families, internet access was one concern,” Burchett said. “Not everyone has the internet access they wish they had, so we are running paper packets.”
The number of paper packets required depends on the building, he said.
“At the high school, we have less than 20 kids using paper packets — down to kindergarten and first grade where it would be closer to the majority are using paper at those grade levels just because it’s more age appropriate at that level.”
The district is fortunate because Chromebooks were widely available to distribute to students, he said.
“We do have enough devices in the district, Chromebooks, that every student K through 12 could have had one if they needed one,” Burchett said.
The superintendent said he was pleased with the results of all three surveys.
“We had for the most part overwhelming positive results from the surveys,” he said. “We know communication with staff — we want to do better there. They don’t like hearing, ‘We don’t know.’ That’s one of the hardest things for people to hear. We don’t know what the summer is going to look like, we don’t know what the fall is going to look like, so I have to try to give them a little bit of a crystal ball as to what we think might happen.”
Burchett said the staff has been doing a great job of adapting.
“I shared with the staff, ‘I know you’re doing a good job because your building principals, and myself, we’re not getting calls from concerned parents.’”
Burchett said teachers have engaged students in a host of activities.
“It’s been really fun. I’ve watched some Zoom calls to where there was a scavenger hunt going,” Burchett said. “The kids were on the Zoom call with the teacher and she said, ‘Hey go find this.’ They go all over the house, they find it and bring it back and show it.
“I’ve had theme Zoom calls where the kids and the staff members are all dressed up for a theme for the call. It’s been really neat to watch those,” he said.
Burchett said physical education teachers also have been inventive with their instruction.
“My middle school PE teachers are amazing. They are doing live workouts with kids through Zoom and just all sorts of activities for them,” he said. “I’ve been really impressed by that.”
At the high school, the emphasis has been on keeping academics moving forward, Burchett said.
“The high school has tried to keep academics as one of the main focuses,” Burchett said. “We have a lot of concurrent enrollment classes — that’s tough because that’s a college credit.”
Burchett said those courses are tough on students because it is a completely different scenario.
“For test security, I’ve had teachers that will have the kids come pick up a packet and then they open the packet in front of the teacher on Zoom and take the test in front of them on Zoom — just for those college-level classes.”
The district also has been able to provide online tutoring for students who need help and to provide enrichment activities for students that have advanced beyond the normal course work to keep them from becoming bored.
The district’s foodservice program has worked out well.
“Another big success I feel like we’ve had has been our foodservice program,” Burchett said. “That’s been a benefit for our community because we’re serving on average right now probably about 850 lunches and 850 breakfasts a day.
“So we’re able to have people just drive through and pick up the food and go,” he said April 23. “We’re now distributing food on Mondays for Monday and Tuesday and then distributing on Wednesday for the rest of the week Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.”
Burchett said the district also is delivering about 250 meals a day to students in rural areas of the district as well as to students with medical needs. The district also provides food to daycares that need it.
Burchett told the Board of Education at its Monday, May 11, meeting that the district had served over 58,000 meals.
The days are winding down. Burchett said the last day to introduce new material was Friday, May 8. This week, May 11 through May 15, is a winding-down period for students to finish up lessons and activities that have to be completed as well as teachers continuing to communicate with students.
The last four days of the semester, May 18 through May 21, could prove to be the most challenging, Burchett said.
“Getting devices back, going through what should have been our normal check-out procedures for each building,” he said. “That’s probably going to be our most stressful week trying to track everything down, trying to get all of our seniors’ stuff taken care of. We have to get their lunch balances taken care of and all those things we typically did in person at the end that we’ll have to find a new way to do.”
Through the whole process, Burchett said, he thought the district has done a good job of adapting and is now gearing up for summer programs and the new school year in the fall and the uncertainty of when the district will be able to open the school doors again.
“So we make two plans for everything right now,” he said.