Kansas Community Examines Opening Virtual School in 2022

Great Bend will apply to the Kansas State Department of Education to start a virtual school in 2022. The school board has authorized the application, but it is not obligated at this point to start an online school.

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(TNS) — Great Bend USD 428 will apply to the Kansas State Department of Education to start a virtual school in 2022. The school board met Monday and authorized the application, but it is not obligated at this point to start an online school.

Director of Teaching and Learning  Tricia Reiser  said the research committee recommends an online school that is open only to Great Bend USD 428 students in grades 6-12. It would be similar to the "GB Remote" option offered to families this year during the pandemic.

Reiser said 250 students started the school year at home via GB Remote but some have since returned to their schools for in-person learning. On Nov. 6, 2020, remote enrollment had dropped to 223 and this month there are 195 remote students. The number of elementary students taking remote classes has dropped from 60 to 46.

"I think parents are realizing that a virtual school or GB Remote is hard," Reiser said. However, the district sees a need for it as some parents do want that option.

School board member  Deanna Essmiller  voiced concerns.

"Is that what works best for kids?" she asked. "We're finding that kids need social interaction. (And) when they show up in your classroom you have eyes on them."

"We can put some checks and balances in there," Reiser said.

Assistant Superintendent  John Popp  said families have asked for a virtual school for years. "We had to refer them to some other virtual program that we are not in control of," he said.

"A certain percentage of the population has decided they are going to be virtual," Popp said. "We absolutely believe that kids being in the classroom with a teacher (is the best option)."

Essmiller noted that, ultimately, parents make the decision, just as those who choose homeschooling do.

"This is just the application," Popp said. "If there are too many hurdles we can always stop and not do it."

Superintendent  Khris Thexton  reminded the board that "COVID could still be around (in 2022). We're looking ahead. It gives us another option."

Popp said GB Remote is directed by  Bill Maddy , the Individual Learning Center (ILC) teacher. The ILC is an alternative school for GBHS students that uses the Edgenuity-brand online program of instruction.

Board member  Lori Reneau  voiced support for a USD 428 virtual school, saying she is aware of students who have used other virtual programs because the district doesn't offer one. "I personally think it's a good idea," she said.

Fundraiser requests

In other business, the board approved the requests to conduct fundraisers in 2021-2022.

Booster clubs, Parent Teacher Associations and school groups that conduct fundraisers are asked to submit a request to do so each year, Superintendent Thexton said.

"It takes a lot of pressure off of our community, so you aren't asked to buy cookie dough all of the time," he said. The administration tries to keep fundraisers from overlapping.

Thexton noted that two groups, Great Bend High School FFA and GBHS Student Council, did not submit applications to conduct fundraisers that they have done in the past. He said groups that were unable to take trips during the pandemic didn't feel they needed to raise as much money until travel resumes.

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