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KUSD RETURNS AUGUST 17TH

More than 7,000 Kingman Unified School District students will start the new school year on August 17 but they will not be in traditional classroom environments, at least not right away. Those are the highlight outcomes following three hours of discussion at Tuesday's governing board meeting.

   It took well more than one hour for President Charlie Lucero and Board member Beth Weisser to read into the record 27 letters that citizens, teachers and parents submitted on the topic of how and when to crank up the new school year. The communications touching on the whole spectrum of considerations reflected broad divisions within the community, parents and staff.

   The Call to The Public letters read into the record heavily favored of traditional, in-class instruction. Superintendent Gretchen Dorner noted, however, that collective input received through all channels was more balanced and open to option exploration given the public health threat of COVID-19.

   Dorner said there's an overall consensus that getting kids back into learning environments as quickly as possible is most important, no matter the method of instructional delivery. She said the District is positioned to always offer online learning going forward, the other options being traditional classroom or a hybrid virtual program that connects teachers and pupils with online and in-person interaction opportunities, one-on-one or with smaller student groups.

   Weisser expressed health concern in that the District is unable to achieve proper social distancing if students returned to class en masse. Some teachers have said the same, though many other educators indicate they want to be with their students, believing it's the optimum learning environment.

   Board member Jennifer Shumway expressed support and confidence that online instruction can be effective. She said she obtained her Master's degree in that manner and that her kids have also had good experiences with cyber learning.

   Dorner said the virtual program gives the District a tool and a contingency plan that gets kids learning on August 17. She said it's highly likely that the Governor will issue a new date that will prohibit in-class attendance until some later date.

   The virtual program guarantees instructional opportunity in addition to the online option for an August 17 start, no matter uncertainty associated with a possible date extension by Governor Doug Ducey.

   ``It's my greatest desire, our teacher's greatest desire, our district team's greatest desire to have all students back in our class rooms. That's who we are," Dorner said. ``We're a bricks and mortar school district where we have awesome teachers, awesome families and we love having kids in our classrooms."

   The governing board will reconsider during its August 11 meeting a possible new window for returning kids to class. Board President Charlie Lucero said that day can't come quickly enough.

   ``I'm a firm believer that kids have to be in the classroom. That is the way that they need to learn," Lucero said. ``We have parents who want their kids back in school, we have students who want to be back in school and we have teachers who want to come back and teach in the school and we have a superintendent and a staff who firmly believe in the Return to Learn manual."

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