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Kansas State Board of Education February highlights: Board approves 'Navigating Next' guidance document

Posted: Feb 12, 2021
Author: Ann Bush

The Kansas State Board of Education members approved a new guidance document to help support schools successfully complete the 2020-2021 school year while simultaneously preparing for the 2022-2022 school year.

This 28-page document, “Navigating Next,” also helps districts determine options for the use of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) I and II funds, which have to be spent by September 2022 and September 2023, respectively.

The Kansas State Board of Education met Tuesday, Feb. 9, and Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the Landon State Office Building, 900 S.W. Jackson, in Topeka.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson presented his commissioner’s report. In Kansas, as of Feb. 1, 3.8% of COVID-19 cases were among children ages 0 to 9 (10,457 total cases), and 7.8% of cases were among children ages 10 to 17 years of age (21,511 total cases).

Recent evidence suggests that with masking requirements and student cohorting, transmission risk within schools appeared low, suggesting that schools might be able to safely open with appropriate mitigation efforts in place, Watson said.

Given what is known about infection rates in school-aged children and secondary infections cause by school-aged children within the school environment, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas COVID Workgroup for KIDS recommend modifying the Navigating Change guidance document to allow for middle and high schools to remain in an in-person or hybrid learning environment when county metrics recommend a remote only learning environment if school districts meet the following guidelines:

  1. Students, teachers and staff members within middle and high school buildings should wear a mask appropriately, in accordance to Navigating Change guidelines. Students should be physically distanced at least 6 feet from each other for the majority of the day. Teachers and staff should also comply with physical distancing recommendations. If physical distance of 6 feet can’t be accomplished, schools may conduct a hybrid model grouping or cohort in groups of no more than 5 students with each cohort remaining 6 feet apart for the majority of the day.
  2. Each building used for instruction follow ventilation guidance in accordance to Navigating Change guidelines.
  3. Each building used for instruction should sanitize and clean surfaces and restrooms in accordance to Navigating Change guidelines.
  4. Students, teachers, and staff should continue regular hand hygiene as per Navigating Change.
  5. Each school district should onboard point of care testing capacity to address screening and diagnostic testing
  6. Buildings require appropriate staffing for classrooms, administrative offices, custodial staff, transportation, food service, and other programs that are vital to the district’s success. This also includes the ability to fill vacancies with licensed substitute staff when needed. If districts cannot maintain adequate staffing for a building, then that building should be closed until it is able to operate safely and effectively.

Watson also said he convened the Commissioner’s Task Force for Oversight of ESSER and Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds. This 19-member task force will be led by Jim Porter, State Board of Education chair, and will be comprised of superintendents, legislators, teachers, local school board members, business managers, private school personnel and others, Watson said. The task force will be in place from February 2020 through the summer of 2023.

Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander and Bart Swartz, associate executive director of Greenbush Education Service Center, discussed “Navigating Next,” the guidance document that is an extension of the “Navigating Change” document. “Navigating Next” was developed to aid school districts as they prepare to transition out of the pandemic.

The board accepted recommendations from the Accreditation Review Council and awarded the status of accredited to Coffeyville Unified School District 445; John Paul II Elementary School; Cure of Ars; and St. Thomas Aquinas. They also approved ARC recommendations to conditionally accredit St. Paul Elementary School and Our Lady of Unity.

Mischel Miller, director of KSDE’s Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA) team, was available to answer board questions.

State Board of Education members reviewed ARC accreditation recommendations during the January 2021 meeting.

Beth Fultz, assistant director of KSDE’s Career, Standards and Assessment Services and Dr. Brad Neuenswander gave an update to the board on 2021 state assessments. They shared information on dates for the interim assessments in English language arts (ELA) and math; summative assessments in ELA, math and science; and ACT and WorkKeys.

State board members recognized two people who received a Kansas Certificate in Child Nutrition Management. Jessica Phillips, Fort Scott USD 234, and Melissa Miller, De Soto USD 232, completed 120 hours of management classes that have been approved by KSDE’s Child Nutrition and Wellness team (CNW).

KSDE’s Cheryl Johnson, director of CNW, along with Jill Ladd and Julie Henry, assistant directors of CNW, presented the awards and shared information about the program with board members.

Miller, director of KSDE’s TLA team, discussed recommendations on microcredentials for licensed educators. The Professional Standards Board finalized the definition and components of a microcredential. Earning a microcredential is one way that educators can choose to improve their learning and teaching – with an opportunity to advance their instructional practice.

A microcredential is defined as a personalized professional unit of study that is competency based and results in a credential. It can be used for formal and informal professional learning experiences.

In 2016-2017, work began on researching microcredentialing as a potential pathway toward teacher relicensure via professional literature and consultation with microcredential developers and providers.

More than 50 Kansas educators initiated the process for a microcredential pilot. Completion of the pilot and relicensure was granted based on the earning of two microcredentials during the course of three semesters.

While only 50% of people involved in the pilot finished, all participants reported confidence in their teammates and schools.

KSDE’s Mark Thompson, E-Cigarette Vaping Task Force coordinator and education program consultant, along with Jordan Roberts, youth prevention manager with the KDHE Bureau of Health Promotion, and Sara Prem, specialist and advocate for the American Lung Association in Kansas and Greater Kansas City, updated board members on work of the E-Cigarette/Vaping Task Force.

The task force was established in 2019 to address concerns of electronic nicotine devices in schools and the health of students in Kansas schools. Since its inception, the task force has addressed a multitude of issues, including education and awareness; signage for schools and cessation options.

Task force members discussed the current status of Tobacco 21 legislation with board members.

KSDE’s Stacy Smith, Natalie Clark and Jay Scott provided information to the board on the collaboration between intergovernmental agencies through the Governor’s Council on Education.

Dr. Craig Neuenswander discussed legislative matters with the board.

Board members also voted to accept changes to the “Navigating Changes” guidance document and framework.

Marcia Fiorentino, an education program consultant and civic engagement coordinator for KSDE, provided information to State Board members about the 2020 History, Government and Social Studies Standards.

Thomas Fulbright, a social studies teacher at Hope Street Academy, Topeka USD 501, discussed a student civics inquiry his students took part in. Students studied a timeline to identify issues that have caused students to become civically engaged in the past. Those students analyzed primary documents from past debates about student engagement and then made connections between the ideas and motivations behind past student civic actions and the civic actions being taken by students today. Students were then tasked with writing a letter to Hope Street Academy’s principal encouraging him to either support students in their right to be civically engaged or to make sure students were staying focused on their responsibilities to focus on their studies.

Fiorentino also gave an update of the Civic Advocacy Network (CAN) awards program for 2020-2021. Applications for this year’s awards program will open in April and will be reviewed in June. Award winners will be notified in July and invited to a ceremony in Topeka for Constitution Day in September.

Rep. Steve Huebert, chair of the House Education Committee, discussed potential cooperative efforts with the State Board and report on bills in committee.

During a work session, Dr. Watson reviewed the Kansans Can vision, goals, objectives and outcomes with board members. There also was continued discussion on the “Navigating Next” framework and COVID-19 federal emergency relief funds to schools.

State Board members approved the “Navigating Next” guidance document.

The next Kansas State Board of Education meeting will take place March 9-10, 2021.

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