Eudora school district moving to hybrid learning after going fully in-person; Baldwin City remaining in mixed-method approach
photo by: Sylas May/Journal-World Illustration
As the local health department’s color-coded guidance on schools moves into its third week in the yellow tier, at least one area district is switching to a hybrid learning option after previously allowing fully in-person classes.
Eudora Superintendent Steve Splichal on Friday announced that the district would be moving its education method into a hybrid learning model starting Monday. The district plans to remain in that model for at least two weeks and will reconsider the issue during the school board’s Sept. 24 meeting, he said.
Elsewhere, the Baldwin City school district is continuing a mixed-method approach where some grades attend fully in-person classes while others use hybrid learning. And it remains unclear what the Perry-Lecompton school district plans to do.
Eudora, which began fully in-person classes on Tuesday, Sept. 8, made the change on Thursday during its school board meeting, which occurred just hours after Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health updated its guidance to county schools on how education should be conducted amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In the update, the health department announced its guidance would remain in the yellow tier, which calls for schools to use hybrid learning options and not participate in “high risk” sports and activities, for a third straight week.
While the countywide positivity rate of the virus has increased to 9.7% — which prompted the guidance to remain in yellow, despite the average number of cases dropping — the positivity rate in Eudora alone has also increased, according to the health department’s data. As of Thursday, Eudora had a local positivity rate of 8%. The guidance is in the yellow tier when the county’s positivity rate is greater than 5% but less than 10%, according to the county health department’s website.
In Eudora’s hybrid model, all students will get two days of in-class instruction and three days of remote learning per week. The students will be split into two groups, with each group having in-class instruction on different days to reduce the number of people in school buildings at one time. On Wednesdays, students in both groups will learn remotely.
Despite the changes, Splichal said he believes the school year has begun “very smoothly.” He also commended students for their flexibility.
“Our students have definitely stepped up to the challenge,” Splichal said in his announcement. “While the situation we are in may be unusual, our students remain remarkable.”
Splichal also asked parents to be mindful of the tough situation the school district is in.
“Please be mindful that each and every one of us is working hard to try to battle through the challenges of the pandemic,” he said in a message to parents on Friday. “Be mindful that differences of opinion are not cause for personal attack. Be mindful that each of us has the ability to impact the trajectory that we are on. Wash your hands. Wear the mask. Keep your distance.”
While Eudora is changing its plans, the Baldwin City school district will continue as it began.
Unlike other school districts in the county, Baldwin City started its year with an education method that allowed for both fully in-person classes for some students and hybrid learning options for others.
Superintendent Paul Dorathy previously told the Journal-World the district’s plan was to have pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students attend school fully in person, but that they would be grouped into small cohorts for their classes. Students in seventh grade and up would use a hybrid learning option.
Dorathy told the Journal-World on Friday that as long as the county’s guidance remains in the yellow tier, the district will stick with that plan.
He said the in-person classes in the lower grades have continued to be taught in small cohorts, with a maximum of 17 students for each class, while the older students are attending in-person classes every other day. That means about 25% of the school district’s students are attending school remotely each day.
Additionally, Dorathy said the plan has been in line with the county’s guidance since the beginning of the school year. He said the district would change its plans, however, if the health department upgrades its guidance to the orange or red tiers, which are the more severe levels that call for fully remote learning.
“If the county reaches the orange phase then all of the students will go to virtual,” Dorathy said in an email, referring to fully remote learning. “There is no change for us from Green to Yellow, only if we are in the Orange phase.”
According to the health department’s data, Baldwin City has the lowest positivity rate among the county’s communities. With a 5.5% positivity rate, Baldwin City wouldn’t be far from qualifying for the green phases, which allow for fully in-person classes. However, the health department’s recommendation is for the entire county and is not broken down by community.
In the Perry-Lecompton school district in the northwestern portion of the county, it’s not yet clear how the school district will conduct classes this week. As of Friday afternoon, the district had not announced its plan for the coming week. Superintendent J.B. Elliott did not respond to the Journal-World’s requests for comment.
The Perry-Lecompton school district started its school year on Aug. 19 in a hybrid learning model but moved to fully in-person classes on Aug. 31. The district said it would stick with in-person instruction through Friday, but did not say what would occur afterward.
The Perry-Lecompton school district is split between Douglas and Jefferson counties, and the school district works with both of their health departments.
When the district announced on Aug. 24 its plan to move to fully in-person classes, the district noted the positivity rates for both Douglas and Jefferson counties were below 5%. Additionally, Jefferson County had a total of 16 active cases of COVID-19, none of which were in the district boundaries.
Since then, Jefferson County’s active virus cases have increased to 21, according to the Jefferson County Health Department’s website. Additionally, while Lecompton is only part of the community that the district serves, the city has a 6.2% positivity rate.
The Lawrence school district, which has been an outlier in the county, began its school year with fully remote instruction. It plans to continue in remote learning for at least five more weeks, then possibly move to a similar hybrid learning model.
The health department’s up-to-date school guidance can be found on its website, ldchealth.org/457/Smart-and-Safe-School-Reopening. Department officials said the guidance would be updated each Thursday.
Contact Dylan Lysen
Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen: