Beginning next week, elementary students in the Leavenworth public schools will attend classes five days a week.
So far this school year, students who signed up for in-person instruction have been on a hybrid schedule. This means students alternate between attending in-person classes and remote instruction.
But members of the Leavenworth Board of Education voted Wednesday to allow students in prekindergarten through the fourth grade to attend in-person classes five days a week.
This will apply only to students who are signed up for in-person instruction. Students who have signed up for only remote instruction will continue to receive remote instruction.
The change will go into effect Monday.
"It’s a very serious journey that we’ve been on," Superintendent Mike Roth said during Wednesday’s meeting.
He said the issues discussed during the special meeting were not taken lightly.
Roth said school officials have to err on the side of caution.
"But we also have to err on the side of what’s best for kids," Roth said.
The superintendent said the best learning model the district can provide is in-person instruction.
The Leavenworth County Health Department issued what is referred to as gating criteria to provide guidance to schools regarding when to have in-person instruction, a hybrid schedule or remote only instruction during the coronavirus pandemic. Under current conditions, the gating criteria allows for either in-person or a hybrid model for elementary schools.
Roth recommended the switch to what he referred to as "all in" for elementary students during Wednesday’s meeting.
With all elementary students attending classes at the same time, maintaining six feet of social distancing may not be possible. But Roth said schools will observe other precautions such as wearing masks.
He said having more students at the schools also may slow down some processes such as student temperature checks.
Roth said the district cannot eliminate the risk of coronavirus exposure at school, which can lead to quarantines.
"It’s going to happen," he said.
Parents who do not feel comfortable with having their children in elementary schools under the new conditions still have the option of switching to remote instruction.
Roth said board members will have the opportunity to evaluate conditions when they have their regular monthly meeting Oct. 12. And board members may have another special meeting later in the month for additional evaluation.
He suggested board members may consider expanding the "all in" schedule to the other grade levels.
The vote to switch the elementary schools from a hybrid schedule to full in-person classes was 6-1. Board Vice President Dannielle Wells voted against the motion.
Board members also voted to confirm that school employees who are quarantined because of work-related exposures to the coronavirus will not have to use their personal leave for their absences. This motion passed unanimously.