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USD 382 to extend spring break

Kahrie Stegman
Pratt students and teachers, like Michelle Haskin (teacher seated) and her third-graders, will get an extra week of spring break before a determination is made on how USD 382 will handle spring semester classes, due to coronavirus concerns. [

With COVID-19 now posing a threat to Kansas and Pratt, the administration at USD 382 has extended spring break a full week until March 27.

“We have decided to make a school closure for March 23-27 in order to protect student and community safety and make detailed preparations for how we will help keep our students moving forward during this crisis,” Superintendent Tony Helfrich stated on the USD 382 website in a Monday, March 16 update.

Since many families travel during spring break, Helfrich said it made sense that giving students another week away from their peers at school would help contain the virus.

According to Helfrich, this closure will also allow more time for teachers and staff to plan how they will tackle potential online teaching. Teachers will still return from spring break and meet in small groups of 4-5 and use video conferencing when necessary.

Since some students rely on the district to provide meals during school hours, updates on information regarding meals will be provided on the USD 382 Facebook page and district website.

On March 15, KSHSAA (Kansas State High School Activities Association) announced the suspension of all high school activities in the state, including practices and competitions, until March 22. That date is subject to be pushed back even further, if needed. State basketball tournaments and music contests have been canceled.

As the virus continues to spread, the district continues to follow specific state or health department guidance regarding the parameters and the timing of the shutdown. Should any changes occur, the district will notify parents via the school messenger service and social media. The administration at USD 382 will review pre-planning information they have gathered so far and make necessary adaptations, according to USD 382 Superintendent Tony Helfrich.

“Student and staff safety would be our first priority,” said Helfrich. “As an administrative team, in consultation with our BOE, we would determine the best course for keeping students moving forward academically while protecting safety.”

Helfrich sent out a poll to all high school and middle school students on Thursday, gauging how many students would have access to the internet in case of extended closure and online classes.

Over spring break, all laptops, chromebooks, and iPads will be sanitized, and guidelines regarding the cleaning of these devices will be implemented when students return from break.

When students do return, school officials will be more flexible with attendance requirements.

Any students who exhibit flu or COVID-19 symptoms will be sent home, and will be told to stay home until they are clear of a fever and symptoms, according to the school nurse, Glenda Houdyshell.

“We are emphasizing hand washing with students and other techniques for reducing potential exposure,” Houdyshell said.

Helfrich and other administration members strive to remain calm during this health threat.

“I appreciate the calm approach by our administrative team and staff,” Helfrich said. “Judging by the major closures and cancellations happening around the country, we will experience an unsettling time. As a community it will be important to stay calm. We will need to look out for our fellow citizens and be the bridge to help each other across some troubled waters.”

For continued updates and announcements from USD 382 visit their website: usd382.com.