District Update

December 2, 2020

Video Recap of December 2 Newsletter*

12.2 Newsletter Overview
*Correction: Opportunity Academy switched from on-site to hybrid when in orange.

Board of Education Information

Board of Education Recap Article

This is not a full recap of all issues discussed at the Board of Education meeting. These are not official minutes. For more information on the Board of Education meeting, click here.

The board of education decided that the district would be in orange mode until the winter break. They also approved a modification to the gating criteria that Opportunity Academy would be in hybrid during the orange mode. So, that means, Cooper Early Education Center will be onsite, the elementary schools and Santa Fe will be hybrid, Chisholm and Newton High School will be remote and Opportunity Academy will be in hybrid.

The board also heard information on the testing opportunities for staff. See more about that in the Superintendent's Corner below.

Lastly, Chisholm Middle School went over Summit Learning and some of the struggles and adjustments they will be making. There is more information about the specifics in the Chisholm Middle School building report below. Chisholm will be using the date that the Summit Platform allows them to collect to inform instruction in the future. They will also be reporting back to the board on progress.

Video of the full board meeting:

Facebook Live Q&A

Q: Will it be possible for students who are struggling at Chisholm Middle School to get 1x1 help?

A: They’ll want to talk to their teachers. That’s also a reason to have all the data Summit allows at your fingertips.

Q: Are there people checking in with students who are struggling at the high school?
A: They’re trying to do a better job of following up on those kids who are struggling academically when they are offsite. The problem with being offsite is just because you have a phone doesn’t mean you’ll answer it or just because you have an email address doesn’t mean you’ll read the email or respond to that email. I do know a lot of our administrators do porch visits. They follow up and try to make contact. I will also say that’s not always successful either. So if you are struggling, reach out to the teacher, the principal or myself, and we’ll see what we can do in that regard. Our social workers do a great job trying to assist kids who are struggling. There are supports there.

Do we have the data on cases at different grade levels?

A: (NOTE: This would have been as of November 24) We have seven secondary active cases, two middle school active cases and six elementary active cases at the student level.

Q: Do we use state or county numbers for our gating criteria?
A: It’s based off of county and local numbers. Our attendance is local. The county numbers are from the KDHE site but only as it relates to Harvey County with the exception of the hospital criteria. That’s the south-central region.

November 24 Board of Education Recap

Superintendent's Corner

The numbers this week taken from logs maintained locally are (as of 11/20/2020):

• Students quarantined: 249 students (287 last week)

• Staff quarantined: 62 staff (52 last week)

• Active cases: 22 students (17) and 9 staff (9 last week)


The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has partnered with WellHealth to open a COVID-19 drive-through testing site in Harvey County. The testing site will be at the high school so we will not continue pursuing the staff testing through WSU since we have an option in the county. If this does not work out for staff, we will ramp up the testing opportunity through WSU.

Testing will begin on Friday, December 4. Appointments are recommended to aid traffic. However, those without appointments can be tested. Appointments can be scheduled through WellHealth’s website, www.gogettested.com.

The site will be open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Testing is open to all individuals, regardless of county of residence. The site will test
symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. Testing will be filed through an insurance provider if available but is free to those who do not have insurance.

WellHealth conducts saliva-based testing. Results are sent to the individual through SMS or email by WellHealth, with an expected time range of 48- 96 hours after testing.

Individuals seeking a COVID-19 test are asked to drive north onto Boyd Avenue from 12th
Street. From there, traffic will continue into the high school parking lot, and exit out of the
parking lot onto 12th Street. Individuals can remain in their vehicle throughout the process.

The Newton testing site is one of multiple locations. The Newton testing site is anticipated to be able to conduct up to 1,000 tests per day.

USD 373 staff, this testing is optional and not required by the district. If you are able to find time during the work day, you may get tested then or after school.

Look out for more information about how this will impact parking at the high school and food service pick up in the near future.

Out of This World

The programming, “Out of this World Virtual Field Trip,” that Megan Nagel and her connections across the region hosted is a great example of leveraging technology, relationships and reaching out to experts in the field to set up some amazing real-world experiences for students (and adults!).

During the IBB break yesterday, I was able to listen to a portion of the “Life, Work and Discovery Aboard the International Space Station” with Ben Honey. I also am playing it while trying to complete these notes. The Q&A part was so fun…the questions from kids (or adults) are from the position of wanting to learn, not having to pass a test.

I know this kind of stuff takes time and effort to set up but wow, what a way to open windows and doors for young people to actually begin to consider possibilities! A special thanks and kudos to all involved.

New Information

Toy Give Away

In an effort to help alleviate stress and to bring holiday joy to area children, the Newton School District is pleased to partner with Toys for Tots and the Harvey County United Way as a toy distribution site on Saturday, December 12. This event will take place in the boardroom at the McKinley Administrative Center (308 E 1st St, Newton, KS 67114). The distribution will start at 9 a.m. and will last until 5 p.m. (or until all toys are given out). Any parent or guardian who is a resident of Harvey County with school-aged children in his or her home may come to McKinley to pick up two toys for each child for free. Please note that toys will be limited to one distribution per household. We will have age-appropriate toys for children in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Due to the pandemic, we will be asking that only one parent/guardian attend the distribution event per household (without their child). Participants will also need to wear a mask, get their temperature checked and socially distance upon entry. All participants will park in the north parking lot, enter in the northwest corner of the building and exit on the south side.

Look for more information as the date gets closer.

Important Reminders

Chisholm, Santa Fe Zoom Lunch

Chisholm and Santa Fe parents and staff,

Remember, we will be hosting a Zoom Lunch on December 14 at 12 p.m. Superintendent Van Ranken, Mr. Menninga, Mr. Nulik, Mrs. Waltrip and Mrs. Flores will be there to answer your questions. You can send questions to samantha.anderson@usd373.org ahead of time or leave them in the chat box on Zoom.

This meeting will not be livestreamed. To join, you’ll need to register. The link has been resent to your email today around 2:30 p.m. YOU WILL NEED TO REGISTER TO JOIN.

Feel free to join us for the full hour or just stop in to get your questions answered.

Parents from other buildings, we do plan on hosting Zoom lunches like these for all buildings.

Hiring Bonus

Looking for a job? Know someone who is? We have good news! Some jobs at USD 373 come with a hiring bonus:

Eligible Positions and Amount of Cash Bonus:

  • 2020-2021 Certified Teachers ($600)

  • Transportation ($600)

  • Food Services ($600)

  • Facilities and Maintenance ($600)

  • Aides/Para Educators ($300)

The one-time bonus is paid out in two installments. The first, $200, will be paid as part of the first payroll of employment. The second installment, $400, will be paid in the sixth payroll as long as the employee is still working for the district.

Current district employees may also be eligible to receive a referral bonus of $300 if the individual they refer is hired and completes three months of service. The referral must be noted in the formal employment application. Learn more about what it is like to be a paraeducator in this video:

We're Hiring--Paraeducators

Question and Feedback Form

Question and Feedback Form

On all of our district and school websites, you will see a Questions & Feedback button on the home screen. This will lead you to a new form that you can use to get your questions answered more quickly and make sure your feedback goes to the correct person. Please use this form for any emails or questions. You’ll notice a few dropdown menus. If you choose general district, a dropdown menu with a variety of topics will appear for you to choose from. If you select school specific, a dropdown menu will appear with a list of schools for you to choose from.

District Feature

Third Grade Remote: Socktober

Mrs. Weimer and Mrs. Garr’s third-grade remote classes made sure that people had warm feet this winter. They collected socks to donate to Ember Hope as part of a Socktober project.

Not only was this an opportunity for students to learn about giving, but Mrs. Weimer and Mrs. Garr were able to tie other subjects into the project as well. In Social Studies, the classes talked about community leaders, what good community leaders do and how being a leader is a service to your community.

The project also allowed the classrooms to work on persuasive writing and learn about the difference between a fact and an opinion. The students were in charge of the advertising. They created a slideshow to share with their families to convince them to donate socks for the cause.

One other motivation behind the service project was to unite the students. In remote classes, there are students from multiple buildings. This was one way for the teachers to build a classroom community when the students haven't met each other in person. Having a common goal helped build some of that community.

The students were so excited about this project that they've already started planning for future service projects.

Railer Recognition

This is to recognize the accomplishments of USD 373 staff or students. If you know of a student or staff that should be recognized, please email info@usd373.org.

SCKMEA District Orchestra

Congratulations to our NHS band and orchestra students selected for the SCKMEA District Orchestra!


  • Josue Coy Dick, Newton

  • Diego Coy Dick, Newton

  • Daisy Buller, Newton


  • Claire Preheim, Newton

  • Alondra Valle, Newton


  • Abigail Chappell Deckert, Newton


  • John Mark Koontz, Newton


  • Josh Bergman, Newton


  • Jonah Schloneger, Newton

Scholar's Bowl

Scholar’s Bowl had two teams at the Hays Virtual Varsity Invitational. One team made it to the Quarterfinals and the other team took 1st place! Newton has taken 1st place at every varsity meet so far this season!

All-State Volleyball

Congratulations to Asha Regier. She made 1st Team All-State and AVCTL. She also led 5A in kills. Great season, Asha!

24-Hour Marathon

Congratulations to Newton High School teacher Mr. Bookout! He came in first at the Kansas Ultrarunners Society 6/12/24 Hr Run where he ran for 24 hours straight!

NHS Students Of The Week

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Building and Department Updates

We have a new section this week, building and department updates. We’ve given our administrators the opportunity to add information they really want to make sure you know to our newsletter. It will not be every department, every week. It will be upon request.

Chisholm Middle School

In order to help provide some more structure and accountability for our students, we have made some adjustments for the second quarter. Click on this link for the full document that outlines these changes. This information is also on our website, along with a video that walks students through how to navigate their day when learning at home. Here are some of the highlights:

Synchronous Schedule - follow normal daily class schedule each day of the week

Attendance - one check-in required every day for attendance

Wednesday Help - Workshop Wednesdays, Assignment Completion and Elective Enrichment

Core Classes - these are the classes that will be graded, students should focus on getting work completed for core classes first

Elective Classes - offered as enrichment when students are not in the building

Slate Creek Elementary

(From Allison Heisler, one of four Slate Creek coaches) Girls on the Run is a national program for third to fifth-grade girls. Slate Creek Elementary offers the program to third and fourth-grade girls. We have even had Slate Creek alum, 5th graders, return to be a part of the team.

Each practice is thrilling and exciting! The energy of the girls after school vibrates throughout the building. The practice begins with the girls sharing about their days and bonding with other girls and coaches. Every practice focuses on a theme, with activities to practice the skills learned while staying active. The girls can use these skills in their everyday lives to feel empowered and celebrate who they are. They start by learning about who they are and what is important to them in life. Next, we acknowledge that each girl is unique and celebrate our differences. The girls learn skills and strategies such as unlocking their STAR power, using positive self-talk and encouraging others. These vital skills help guide them through challenges girls face at this age. Another key piece of Girls on the Run is fitness and developing a balanced social and emotional life. At the end of the season, the girls participate in a non-competitive 5K event where they are cheered on by family, friends and community members.

My favorite lesson that our team did this season was the community impact project. I was absolutely amazed at the creative ideas each girl came up with to help our community even with restrictions this season due to Covid. Ultimately, the girls chose to help Caring Hands Animal Shelter. The project is completed entirely by the students. This year, the girls all agreed to make posters for dogs that were in need of homes. One girl contacted Caring Hands to receive photos of some dogs in need of adoption. At practice, the photos of the dogs were shown to the girls. The girls immediately went to work and even continued to make final touches to their posters during their own time. To share their posters with others, the girls decided to hang their posters at the site based 5K in hopes that someone may adopt one of the dogs.

(Mrs. Alfaro) The girls did their 5K this year in our own backyard. Many staff stayed to cheer on the girls. It was a sight to behold! We even had one who completed it in just over 35 min. No one gave up, they just kept trucking. They all amaze me! I am very proud of each and every one, and that includes our astounding teachers who give up their own time to run this program for our young ladies.

Sunset Elementary

A huge thank you to all of our families and teachers for facilitating our remote learning on November 18 and December 2!

Please remember that a remote learning day is still a day of school. Students are required to attend and we do take attendance. Students must TALK TO and hopefully be SEEN BY their teacher each day that they are learning remotely. Instruction and learning are expected to be meaningful and rigorous just like any other school day, even though it looks different. In order for this to happen, students must join their teacher for google meets several times a day (with the camera on). After instruction, according to the learning or practice that is happening, teachers are usually staying on the computer to answer questions and help with independent practice. Please have your student take advantage of this!!!

Your student knows how to access and use Canvas along with the other applications embedded by your teacher in their page. Sometimes as adults, we just need to "get out of the way" and let the students do their stuff as they practice going into Canvas daily in the classroom.

Finally, remember that when your child is in their classroom it is a meet that is "public" to the kids and staff joining that meet. Everything that is said and done within ear and eyeshot of the camera and microphone is picked up and goes to all of the kids and staff in the meet. Please be respectful and appropriate. That means both the student and others in the room at home.

Have a wonderful Holiday! Please be safe so that we can see everyone back in January!

Walton Rural Life Center

As you are starting your holiday shopping, please keep in mind that WRLC has some awesome products for sale, including goat’s soap and lotion. We also have lip balm available, and our hens are fabulous layers if you need any eggs for holiday cooking. The money made on these products funnels right back into the classroom!


Please talk with your students who ride the bus about the importance of wearing masks while they are on the bus. This practice has been put in place to ensure the safety of all students.

If students are taking off their masks during the bus route, it will be reported to their school principals who will address the issue according to the mask policy.

Thank you for your cooperation.

A Look Around The District

Staff Shout Outs

Have a staff member go above and beyond for your student? Did a coworker go the extra mile to make a difference? Let us know and they'll be featured here! Please email info@usd373.org with the information.

Shout out to Samantha Anderson for continuing to provide great communication to the people of our district.

Shout out to the District Mentor teachers. They are rockstars! They continue to provide meaningful ideas to help first and second-year teachers grow into wonderful teachers.

Mrs. Weller is always so positive and kind!

Melissa Swindt is a great teacher with a huge caring heart!

Heidi Flores is becoming a very tactful administrator!

Greg Wood works so hard keeping our school clean!

Jennifer Duncan cares about her coworkers and really goes the extra mile to help them!

Mr. Caleb Smith has brought a huge amount of positive energy to Newton High this year. He is subtle about it, but it's felt throughout the building. He's intent on changing the culture and bringing more pride back to the school... he's well on his way to making that happen! While he will never be as cool as the other Mr. Smith at Newton High, we are still very lucky to have him.

Ms. Danna Gordon brings her "A-game" every day to Newton High. She has played a major role in the development of a new master schedule this year and has been instrumental in the successful implementation of the Sunshine Squad. Ms. Gordon never complains and is always willing to help students, staff, or parents in need. She even helps students with their Chromebook issues if admins aren't available! She rocks!

I want to give a huge shout out to Verlene Keazer and Betty Schmidtberger for all they do behind the scenes. They work tirelessly to fill so many roles at the high school and they do it with a smile. I can't tell you how many times I have gone to them with questions, needed help with paperwork, or to add to their workload and they are always so kind, helpful and efficient! I don't know how the high school would function without them. Thank you both for all you do - we truly appreciate you!

Gina Christianson and Robyn Letcher did an amazing job of helping substitutes out when a teacher was out. They were truly a huge help.

Mimi Leo has stepped in and filled many substitute roles at South Breeze. She has taken them all on. Her willingness to help out where needed is truly a blessing to South Breeze.

Sydney Perkins worked hard to make meaningful contact with students which was above and beyond her normal day just so students are not counted absent.

I wanted to give a staff shout out to Ms. Bethanie Wedel, a first-grade teacher at Walton School. She is so patient and organized with us families in quarantine. She also makes herself available for any and all questions.

A huge thanks to Steve Madewell for unblocking all of the links for the Out of this World Virtual Field Trip. He had to go through for each grade level to make sure they were accessible! Thanks for taking the time to make sure our students could view it.

Shout out to Mr. Matile for always going the extra mile to support his students. He stayed late the other night to have a parent/student meeting with a struggling student. Mr. Matile is able to beautifully balance accountability with empathy.

Shout out to Kim Powell for baking 100 cookies for Education Support Professionals Day. It took a while, but man they're good! She even threw in some gluten-free brownies for Mr. Dietz. Now, that's some Railer Pride we can all get behind!

Team 6-1 at Santa Fe is amazing to work with. Each one of them is an incredible piece of the puzzle that just fits together perfectly. Thanks, guys, for making coming to work in the middle of this pandemic more bearable. I couldn't do it without each of you!

Brooke Bowman - she always lights up a room when she enters it. She's a beautiful person inside and out. I'm so glad she came to Santa Fe and I've gotten to know her and can call her a friend. She's an amazing teacher who goes the extra mile for her students and others' students.

Dan Page did a great job at getting the first virtual railer news magazine published!! Even with the obstacles of COVID he managed to have the students produce a great news magazine!!

I want to say my profound thanks for Micki Fryhover and Kristen McNett. They are willing to take chances, accept difficult situations with grace and work for the common good of the school and community. I and We appreciate you and your efforts to make Newton and USD 373 a better place by bringing all voices to the table.

I want to thank Mr. Nulik for being a great communicator. He responds to emails quickly and he always communicates in a timely manner when students and/or parents share concerns or need help! Thank you!

A parent called this morning to give a shout out to our fifth-grade team, Janine Clayton and Hannah Ramey. They have gone above and beyond for students in class and those who have to learn remotely due to quarantine. They are greeting kids personally and helping them feel as if they were right there in class with them! The remote children learning can hear exactly what the other kids in the class are hearing as the teacher is teaching and the kids are still a part of the community! These teachers have been so flexible and dealing with things as they come like champions! Thank you for doing what you do day in and day out for our students!

Ms. Schrag and Ms. Lyles make such an amazing team! They work hard in creating an environment where my son feels accepted and the lessons they provide are SO AMAZING. The bonus to this team is Mr. Caleb Smith, who is supportive to these teachers but more importantly, to my son who admires him and looks up to him. Thanks for making a difference in my son's life.

Mr. Knoll has gone above and beyond to help my daughter and myself. She was struggling with being in a new school as well as being completely online so she was missing several assignments. I emailed him on a weekend expecting him to get back to me on Monday, but he promptly returned my email and I really appreciated his dedication to his job as well as his students. He does very well communicating with me as a parent as well with my daughter who is his student. I really appreciate him.

Tenae Alfaro - creates a healthy community at Slate Creek. She takes trauma-informed teaching and anti-racism seriously. A great leader!

Megan Garr - doing a great job with remote teaching, staying flexible, doing what works, creating a safe online community in her remote classroom.

Kathy Archer is such an amazing teacher! She is so kind and caring!

Mrs. Fischer is outgoing, kind and fair. She is really fun to work with and the kids really enjoy her.

Mrs. Waltrip is such a good administrator!

Big thanks to Lisa Golubski and Carly Budd, long-term sub superwomen! They filled in for Remote Kindergarten with strength and love!! They were truly amazing!

Jana Boston, fourth-grade teacher at Walton, is doing an amazing job as a first-year teacher during this crazy school year!

Mrs. Dede, HS JAG teacher, is patient and kind. She teaches our son skills that he will use as he progresses into adulthood in a fun, open environment. Thank you!

Mrs. Torres, fourth-grade teacher at South Breeze, is patient and kind to her students. She is always thinking one step ahead when it comes to the adaptations this school year has required. She makes learning fun and keeps our daughter engaged! Thank you!

Nova Latta. She is always paying attention to the student's needs. Very proactive in solving problems/concerns of parents and students.

Alex Peterson. He sees all sides to a problem and comes up with solutions.

Mrs. Salgado has been so helpful with my student. She goes above and beyond for him. I am very thankful for her and without her, he would not be where he is now with his English and knowledge if it wasn’t for her. Thank you!

Mrs. Schwindt is patient and very understanding goes way beyond to help students!! It is so appreciated

Shout out to Chris Schaeffer and Jeff Swafford from Maintenance for responding very quickly to a Sunday morning email from a concerned citizen about the flags being down at one of our schools. Chris immediately dispatched Jeff (who's "a great guy and always willing to help out!") and the district soon received a second email from the citizen letting us know that the "flags were flying high"!

Three of my kids go to Northridge Elementary School. I really love all the staff. They are very friendly, compassionate, caring, loving, & just overall awesome. I tore all the ligaments in my left foot & the brakes are out on my vehicle. The principal helped pick up & drop off my daughter. She was in tears because she didn't have a way to school. They help with questions about my other scholars. Feel like family. Never have I seen a school show so much care about family. Thank you for employing such great staff at Northridge Elementary. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Mr. Skinner's commitment to keeping Scholars Bowl going as an important academic and social opportunity for kids often not elsewhere involved has been a great gift, particularly in this time of remote learning. Thank you so much for your energy, inclusiveness and positive attitude!

Brian Skinner is a rockstar for the Special Education Department at Newton High School. He advocates and supports his students at a high level while doing the same for his colleagues. He also does many "extra' work for master schedule, fast bridge, scholars bowl and other areas for student success. We are blessed to have him on our team at NHS!

Mrs. Torres makes sure quarantined kiddos have everything they need to succeed at home. We appreciate her hard work and dedication to our child very much.

Kelsey Flickner is doing a great job as NHS counselor. She always helps my daughter figure out what she needs!

I'd like to give a shout out to Holly Ruth and Junuen Moreno. They did a fantastic job of facilitating math and social studies while I was out on quarantine and teaching remotely from home! They helped things go so smoothly, kept the students on track, shuffled around their schedules, graded papers, etc.

I am so grateful to have left the students in such good hands! I also want to thank Nancy Welle and Mario Nava for covering recess duty for me - much appreciated!

Brooke Bowman does a fantastic job building relationships with students and staff. She always goes above and beyond to bring a smile and joy to others. We are blessed to have her at Santa Fe.

Janine Clayton is one of the kindest people I have ever met. Students are drawn to her calm demeanor and infectious laugh. She always takes a moment to ask a friend if they are doing okay and her thoughtfulness and genuine care of others does not go unnoticed. We are blessed to have her at Santa Fe.

Jessica May has a heart of gold. She is soft-spoken, loving and an amazing role model for her students. She goes above and beyond to make each student feel special and cared for. Her colleagues are proud to work side by side with her on projects because she never loses her temper and always treats others with grace. We are blessed to have her at Santa Fe.

The staff at Walton have been amazing for my kids and my family. My son's teacher, Savannah Sailors, has done a great job of communicating with us and trying to make sure he has everything he needs. My daughter's teacher, Melanie Schall is a fantastic teacher who is always looking for ways to work with my family and to make my daughter's school year better. Melodie Tucker has been wonderful while working with my daughter, always asking questions and telling us joyful things about her day. Finally, the principal, Kate Bremerman, has been a sincere blessing and a wonderful advocate for my daughter's needs. I am so grateful to all of them. So glad to be at Walton Rural Life Center!

Ms. Bergman has gone the extra mile to reach out to students struggling with COVID-19 isolation.

November 23 BOE Meeting