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NEWTON — For students, parents, teachers and others in Newton Unified School District 373, Monday was supposed to be the first day back to school after spring break.
It wasn’t. At least not school the way they knew it two weeks ago.
On March 17, Randy Watson, the commissioner of education in Kansas, and Gov. Laura Kelly announced that all public school buildings in Kansas would be closed for the remainder of the year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Monday was, instead, the first day of lunch and breakfast distribution for students — dubbed “Grab and Go” lunches by the district in emails sent to parents on Saturday and Sunday detailing where those lunches could be picked up.
Families were able to get a sack lunch containing a turkey with cheese sandwich, apple, carrots and milk. Also on the menu was a breakfast for Tuesday, a muffin, yogurt and milk.
That email was followed with a technology survey on Sunday, asking parents if they had internet service in the home, what company they used for cellular service and if they needed to check out a computer from the school district to help further their child’s education.
More steps toward providing educational services to the children of USD 373 are coming — Monday was also the day all teachers were meeting virtually to map out what the next several weeks will look like for education in the largest school district of Harvey County.
Some teachers had already set up Facebook groups for the parents and students of their classrooms to aid in communication as the district moves forward with educational services.
On Friday night, superintendent Deb Hamm hosted a Facebook Live Q&A session to get information out to those who need it. At that time, there were far more questions than answers.
What she knew was that plans are in the works — for about everything imaginable. Diplomas earned by the class of 2020 will be delivered with details still to come. Parents and students will be allowed into school buildings at some point to get their personal belongings. Special education services will continue, with how to be determined.
That is what this week is for: planning.
There will be more announcements this week for parents — how much time students will work on a computer each day, how to handle other activities and how to finish off the school year among them.
Some of those parents had harried looks on their faces, the toll of spring break and uncertainty ahead obvious.