Return to School


July 8, 2020
Update from Superintendent Dr. Scott McWilliams

I hope this email finds you well. The purpose of this message to all parents is to provide a brief update on our summer planning efforts and when you can expect to receive more detailed information about the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

It is important to state up front that we continue to be your school community, we are here for you and your students, and we will do the absolute best we can to accommodate needs and concerns created by COVID-19. I am hopeful that schools will be open for all students in August for a safe and successful beginning of the 2020-21 school year. Having students return to school in August is the preferred choice for many families, but likely, not all families. Please know that we will work with families choosing not to send their students to school to best meet their students' distance learning needs as well.

Members of the Auburn-Washburn team have been working on the following contingency plans to accommodate teaching and learning in three phases of education. More detailed information will be provided later in July, but as an early preview, here are a few statements summarizing each phase:

  • Green Phase 3: Green means go. In Phase 3, all students return in person to school settings that are appropriately modified and disinfected to accommodate health and safety requirements issued by the Shawnee County Health Department. Bus transportation is available to all students. Procedures will be in place to keep large groups of students from congregating during the school day for prolonged periods of time, but six feet of social distancing is not mandated by local health officials in Phase 3.
  • Yellow Phase 2: Yellow means caution. In Phase 2, six feet of social distancing is mandated by local health officials, so not all students return in person to school settings each day. A modified student schedule would be created to provide students with a combination of in-person learning in school settings and off-site distance learning. The reduction of students attending school each day would allow for greater social distancing to occur amongst students and staff. Bus transportation is available, but some routes may be capped to accommodate six feet of social distancing on the bus.
  • Red Phase 1: Red means stop. In Phase 1, schools are closed to students by the State or Shawnee County Health Department. Off-site distance learning is the only option for most students, but a small group of students may be selected to participate in in-person instruction to meet documented individualized learning objectives. Students would receive distance learning instruction with expectations to complete assignments at home and post online for evaluation.

A great deal of strategic and detailed planning has occurred with each phase listed above, but before each phase can be finalized, we must wait to receive further guidance from the Kansas State Department of Education and the Shawnee County Health Department. The Kansas State Department of Education will share guidelines for all Kansas school districts on July 10, and the Shawnee County Health Department will share guidelines for local school districts this week or next.

For families choosing not to send their student(s) to school in 2020-21 due to COVID-19 related concerns, parents will complete a form that will be located on the home page of the Auburn-Washburn School District website and email that completed form to the school principal. The school principal will engage with the parent and the child's teacher(s) to discuss distance learning accommodations.

I anticipate being able to share the Auburn-Washburn "Return to School Plan" with staff and parents by Friday, July 24. Our students are scheduled to return to school for the 2020-21 school year on Thursday, August 13, so we will still have nearly three weeks to modify our plans as new information becomes available. Our "Return to School Plan" will remain a live document as we prepare for and proceed through the 2020-21 school year, because as new facts are learned, our approach may change.

I have two final points to share. One, we understand clearly now more than ever that cleaning and sanitation are critical to the continued learning and success of our staff and students. In response to COVID-19, the following actions will be in place for the 2020-21 school year.

  • All cleaning chemicals used are EPA/CDC approved for COVID-19 disinfection and safe for use in the classroom environment.
  • During the school day, common spaces and high traffic areas will be continuously disinfected by custodial staff.
  • Each staff or student occupied space will be provided with a spray disinfectant bottle and microfiber cloth for use as emergent needs arise.
  • All classrooms and restrooms will be thoroughly disinfected by custodial staff every night with an electrostatic misting system.
  • In addition to normal cleaning procedures, all classroom communal touch surfaces (such as door handles, faucets, handrails) will be wiped down and disinfected.
  • Building facilities and equipment receive regular preventive maintenance to ensure operability and efficiency. Air quality is consistently monitored for temperature, humidity, and circulation for adequate airflow.
  • All school buses will be thoroughly disinfected after each route with an electrostatic misting system.
  • In addition to normal cleaning procedures, all communal touch surfaces on the bus (such as backs of seats, tops of seats, handrails) will be wiped down and disinfected.
  • All food service spaces and equipment will be sanitized between each meal.

Two, decisions have not yet been finalized on the use of cloth facial masks for the 2020-21 school year. You may have seen in the news recently that Governor Kelly issued an Executive Order requiring facial masks be worn in public areas beginning July 3. On July 6, the Shawnee County Commission voted to uphold the key provisions of the Governor's Order effective July 9. Of course, our team will comply with this Order during the month of July, and we will seek guidance on the use of cloth facial masks from the Kansas State Department of Education and state and local health experts as August 13 approaches. As a proactive measure, Auburn-Washburn has ordered two washable, reusable cloth facial masks for each staff member and each student. If cloth facial masks are encouraged or required for part or all of the school day in 2020-21, two masks for each staff member and student will be made available.

We will continue working this summer to be prepared and ready for a safe and successful 2020-21 school year. After the Auburn-Washburn "Return to School Plan" is shared by July 24, we will be prepared to respond to questions leading up to the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Take Great Care,

Dr. Scott McWilliams
Superintendent of Schools