Return to School

July 24, 2020
Safely Forward in Auburn-Washburn

We want to begin by expressing sincere appreciation to our entire school community. Last spring when COVID-19 first impacted our schools, we pulled together as a community to make the most out of a less-than-desirable situation. The reality is we did not like how we had to end the school year, but we were extremely proud of how students, teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, and families rallied for that challenge in such a short period of time.

Unfortunately, today's reality is not much different as we move closer to a new school year. We all want our students to return to school, but it is essential that we do so in the safest way possible. Student and staff safety will always be a priority.

Upon reflection from last spring, progress was made throughout the fourth quarter with remote learning, but we admit improvements need to occur. Another priority moving into 2020-21 is providing meaningful learning opportunities for students with the appropriate rigor to promote student academic and social emotional growth.

Student and staff safety and providing meaningful learning opportunities to students are the two pillars of our Return to School Plan titled Safely Forward in Auburn Washburn.

The plan begins with a few introductory pages, provides an overview of three Phases of Education that we continue planning for in 2020-21, contains a link to more detailed information on Teaching and Learning, and then provides details on numerous safety precautions that will be implemented this upcoming school year. It is important to note that Safely Forward provides an overview of what to expect in 2020-21, but more detailed information will be sent by us, principals, and teachers as we move closer to the new school year. Finally, Safely Forward is a "live and actionable" document meaning we will continue to monitor and adjust as circumstances change. The link on the Auburn-Washburn website will always take you to the most current version of our plan.

We agreed early on to not release initial drafts of planning efforts. It was important to wait until the 1,056-page Navigating Change document was released by the Kansas Department of Education. The State Board of Education approved that document just last week, and we needed time to give it a thorough review; we worked as quickly as we possibly could. We will continue making adjustments to our planning efforts as feedback is received. Again, this is a "live and actionable" plan.

We have three other important updates to share regarding the 2020-21 school year. One, based on currently known factors, we are going to start the 2020-21 school year in Phase 2 – Hybrid Learning. In Phase 2, six feet of social distancing is mandated so not all students return in person to school settings each day. A modified student schedule will be created to provide students with a combination of on-site, in-person learning at school, and off-site remote learning. The reduction of students attending school each day would allow for greater social distancing to occur amongst students and staff. Details about the Phase 2 – Hybrid Learning Environment is contained in the Safely Forward in Auburn-Washburn Plan. Two, please remember that families have the option to choose Phase 1 – Remote Learning. We encourage families to review the Safely Forward in Auburn-Washburn Plan and then make a choice that fits best with your student's needs. It is our sincere hope that we can meet your student's needs in either Phase, Phase 1 or 2. And three, we are moving the first day of school for students to Thursday, August 27. This is ten days later than the original start day of Thursday, August 6. Our teachers and support staff will still report on August 6 as originally planned. This time will be used for professional development focused primarily on Phase 2 and Phase 1 learning environments as well as implementing mandated safety precautions. In addition to that calendar change, we will also remove the 12 early release days from the calendar, and Monday, April 5 will be a school day with students. A revised 2020-21 school calendar will be released next week and those changed will be noted.

Thank you for your understanding, flexibility, and patience as we continue to navigate through unprecedented times. Things will not be like this forever, but as long as we stick together and learn as we go, who knows, we may be a bit better on the other side.


Tom Bruno, Board President
Dr. Scott McWilliams, Superintendent of Schools