District Update

October 5, 2020

Video Recap of October 5 Newsletter

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.

In the September 28 board meeting, the board decided to extend the green mode of learning through October 16. In the last special board meeting, members brought up concerns from families and staff regarding how all the changes had made it difficult to plan. However, Superintendent Van Ranken will be monitoring the numbers until then and will bring it to the board’s attention if there are major changes.

Superintendent Van Ranken also went over a few changes to the operational and instructional strategic plan for this year. Masks do not have to be worn during outdoor recess and PE if a student is physically exerting him or herself. Social distancing is still encouraged. Additionally, birthday snacks brought to the school no longer have to be individually wrapped. However, they still need to be prepackaged. They will be distributed to students with good hygiene practices.

In instruction, grades five and six will be allowed to go to the library for checkout only. Library instruction will still take place in the classroom. They also decided that if a parent requests to bring their student onto campus for testing, the district will allow that flexibility.

Here's a video of the complete meeting:

September 28 Board of Education Meeting

Facebook Live BOE Recap and Q&A

Q: What will the district do if there is a positive case as far as communication goes?

A: The building will send out a letter through email to the families who have students in the building letting them know there was a positive case in the building. The staff will be notified as well. The district has to be really careful about protecting the identities of the positive cases. The district has to follow FERPA and HIPPA. We then communicate with the Harvey County Health Department or they will have communicated with us about contact tracing. Then the district will work with the health department on that contact tracing piece. If you or your student is considered a close contact and need to quarantine, the health department will reach out to you. We may have to make changes as we proceed.

You can watch the full video below:
September 29 Facebook Live Q&A and BOE Recap

Superintendent's Corner

Coronavirus Statistics

The numbers this week are (as of Thursday 10/1/20):

• Student quarantined: 34

• Staff quarantined: 2

• Cases thus far: 2

When There Is A Positive Case

We’ve gotten some questions about what happens when there is a positive case as far as communication goes. Here’s a brief outline:

Whenever we have a positive case reported, principals have been instructed to do the following:

1. Principals will send a letter electronically to parents AND staff within their buildings regarding the case.

2. They will ensure that the district office is aware of the case as we are tracking both active cases and quarantine numbers.

3. We will follow any direction the health department regarding contact tracing to ensure we quarantine the necessary individuals to slow the spread.

I am honestly struggling a bit with this I want to be transparent while protecting the identity of the individual, which we are legally obligated to do. We are still small enough that information can easily become an identifier. That is why we must be so careful when releasing information.

What The District Will/Will Not Do

As we progress through the pandemic, there will continual adjustments to processes

and protocols. Below is what will become a “Will/Will Not” resource on our website.

USD 373 Will:

  • Notify parents and staff if a positive case takes place in the building their child attends.
  • Communicate and work with the Harvey County Health Department on contact tracing to determine what individuals from the district that might need to quarantine. (Contact will come from the HCHD relating to cases within our county.We will work with other counties to assist with contact tracing and notifications outside of Harvey County.)
  • Validate questionable quarantine incidents or requests if they do not come from a County Health Department.
  • Monitor symptoms of students and staff.
  • Send students and staff home that exhibit at least two of the symptoms.
  • Conduct extra cleaning in areas where infected individuals spent time.
  • Work with families on providing educational opportunities if in quarantine settings.


  • Provide personally identifiable information of an infected person to students, staff or the community. This would include, but not be limited to, name, gender, grade level, class information or any other potential identifier.

  • Immediately close a school for one positive case.

Covid-19 Plan Adjustments

We are going to discuss and adjust operations and instructional components of our plan on a regular basis during our administrative team meetings that we have the second and fourth Thursday of each month. This past week, this group has decided to make the following adjustments.


  • Outdoor recess - no mask required when physically exerting yourself. Encourage social distancing.

  • PE - no mask required when physically exerting yourself. Encourage social distancing.

  • Birthday treats-these no longer have to be individually wrapped. But still needed to be prepackaged (store bought).


  • Library - Students in grades 5/6 at Santa Fe can bring students to the library to check out only.

  • Remote students and testing - Remote students are allowed to attend on campus for testing at the request of the PARENT. This will be arranged through the building administration and teaching staff.

I work hard to ensure that the majority of these decisions are not made in my office alone. Your principals and directors spent quite a lot of time discussing the suggestions and the implications of the changes. That will continue each time we meet as we will review what we are doing to consider pivots and plan for future potential changes.

Information To Know

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.

Food Service

Our next meal pick up will be on Wednesday, October 7 from 3:30-5:00 p.m. for remote students. If your student is on-site, do not pick up meals for them.

You will need to go in the west doors at Newton High School (senior entrance). The first time picking up meals you will need to have your student(s) with you. If you participated in the last few week’s meal pick ups you should have a card with the number of students who need meals in your household. Please remember, you will need to have a mask on.

To make it easier on families, you will pick up a week’s worth of meals at a time.


We will still have Latchkey on October 9 even though we will not be having school. However, we will be doing things a little differently this year. Instead of one central location, we will have all four of our locations open. Parents will need to sign up by October 7 at 6:00 p.m. if they plan on sending their children. This is to ensure that we can staff accordingly at all locations.

Sign up sheets will be at all four locations in the Latchkey offices. Parents may sign up at pick up or they can call and sign them up over the phone, or email haleigh.willis@usd373.org .

Children must bring a sack lunch and water bottle. There is no food service on this day.

What's New?

Newton High School Diversity Board

Newton High School has started a new board of teachers to help develop a way to strategically help the high school’s students and marginalized groups. The Diversity Board is made up of staff from every department. They also have an advisory board which is made up of individuals from the community.

The group will also receive student input from a variety of student clubs and organizations at the school. The Diversity Board will put together a strategic action plan which includes professional development for staff.

Railer Recognition

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

School Social Worker of the Year

Sara Friesen-Guhr, school social worker at Sunset, was named the School Social Worker of the Year back in the spring. She was supposed to have received the award at their spring conference but of course, it had to be canceled. She just accepted the award at their "virtual" conference on Friday, September 25.

Kansas Art Educator of the Year

Congratulations to Beth Burns for winning Kansas Art Educator of the Year! We are so proud to have you in the Slate Creek family, even if it is in a different capacity this year.

Clinical Social Work Licence Test

During the end of last school year during continuous learning, Joanna Bjerum passed her clinical social work license test and is now a LSCSW! Besides passing the test, earning the credentials takes a minimum of two years of 2000 direct client contact hours and 150 hours of supervision. Way to go Joanna!!

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.

Zully Garcia has gone above and beyond for my class and her ELL students! She is such a positive presence in the classroom and is always supportive. I can already see huge differences in her students' work ethic and overall excitement at school. We are so lucky to have her help!

Shout Out to Ryan Kopper for investing time in learning Spanish to converse with newcomer ESL students! Both the kids and Ryan are appreciating the process of language learning and walking in each other's shoes. Thank you!

Kelsey Flickner has been amazing at coordinating virtual college admissions visits to NHS.

We would like to give a shout out to Loren Kurtz. He is a wonderful addition to NHS and the Special Education program. Loren consistently demonstrates kindness, patience and compassion and goes above and beyond to get to know each student. He spends time with students and staff to brainstorm strategies to help them be successful in classes and communicates well with staff and teachers. Loren can think outside the box and is creative with suggesting interventions that best meet the needs of each student. Loren is a great asset to our team!

Shout out to Beth Burns, Brooke Pickerill and Lisa Galupski for taking the bull by the horns, so to speak, and rockin' remote only Kinder this year!

I would like to give a shout out to Brooke Bowman for always being so patient with me as I navigate the waters of my first year teaching!

I would also like to give a shout out to my awesome administrators here at Santa Fe for always keeping our spirits positive during this crazy time!

I would love to recognize the entire Chisholm Middle School staff who have shown enormous dedication and worked tirelessly to ensure a successful start to the school year.

I would like to send a shout out to Mr. Nulik who isn't afraid of a challenge and always jumps in to help out when needed.

I would like to send a shout out to Lynnette Doty and Kristen Kornfeld who are always kind and friendly and keep our front office running smoothly.

I would like to send a shout out to our Chisholm Middle School custodians, Judy Hernandez, Walter Knopf and Olga Guzman for working extra hard to keep up with sanitizing, multiple lunch spaces, athletics, and many other building needs. They are working extra hard, but doing a great job and still smiling each day when they are at school.

Thank you, Sherry Unruh, for all the work you did on the feedback forms!

I have a staff shout out for Ocean Gomez! Ocean is not only the best employee ever, she is also my best friend! I admire the dedication she has towards things in her life, inside and outside of school. She is a loyal friend and coworker. Ocean is always willing to help wherever she can. She deserves so much more recognition than she gets. I don't know what I would do without her!

Laura Baker--8th-grade science teacher and over STUCO. She is proactive in any situation and always putting the needs of the students first. She is a cross your "t's and dot your "i's" type.

Shout out to Caleb Smith for taking on the role of NHS Principal during these stressful times. We appreciate his open-door policy and decision-making abilities. Caleb has poured his heart and soul into becoming a Railer from his positive social media posts to his presence at school activities and sports. It really shows how Caleb wants to help students and staff be successful and build on community relationships. Caleb contacted various businesses to help donate lunch for all staff on the first virtual Wednesday which was appreciated by all. We are lucky to have Caleb as our leader and excited to be a part of the future at NHS!

Mrs. Bergman is a favorite teacher with my kids. She sends emails, giving prompt information to both parents and students. She responds quickly to student emails and gives information in complete, clear instructions to students. My students consistently speak highly of her. Thank you!

I’m wanting to recommend Jen Magnall at O.A. She has gone above and beyond for my daughter to make sure she stays on track to graduate. She has kept in close contact with us to make sure her progress remains on track. We had an evening zoom meeting to adapt to our crazy, busy schedule. She really has the heart and compassion about making sure her seniors graduate.

Third-Grade Teacher for Remote Learning Jessica Weimer deserves a shout-out. She is constantly helping her students and parents. She is kind and real. Even rescheduled her schedule around our parents’ work schedules once a week. We just love her in our house. She rocks and is so understanding.

I would love to select Ms.Haines from Slate Creek. She is my son's iep teacher and we absolutely love her. My son has been at home sick and almost every day since he has been gone she has texted or emailed to just check on him and see how he is feeling. It warms my heart that when my son isn't at home with me he has such amazing people looking after him at school and she loves him like he was hers.

Megan Garr is doing an excellent job of remote teaching. She works so hard, remains flexible, meets families where they are at and challenges students while also building relationships. Great work and much thanks!

Daniel Buller at Chisholm has done a great job -- he makes sure students are on track and informed and has even checked in with me as a parent just to see how things were going and if anything could be improved. He also sends out a very informative daily email so that remote students know exactly what is expected each day.

We want to give a shout out to DeAnn Creech for being so patient and working with our student and trying different options to keep her on task.

We also want to give a shout out to Ashley Wirtz for working with our student. I know he can be a handful sometimes but thank you for working with him

I think my daughter’s teacher has gone above and beyond. Karen Colbert has done something so simple that I think each teacher should do if they have time. She has personally reached out to me twice regarding my daughter. Something so little means so much to me. To me, that is going above and beyond when teachers take the time out of their day and let parents know updates regarding their kids.

I would like to nominate Miss Enfield, the remote first-grade teacher from Northridge. She has gone above and beyond to help my first grader who has a learning disability keep up with the rest of the class and have a good understanding with all of the programs and learning materials.

Cathlina Bergman goes above and beyond for both staff and students. She works tirelessly with NEA to make sure staff needs are met! In addition to teaching our students, she also spends countless hours with seniors going over their college application essays, scholarship essays, and writing references for students. She is a rock star and I appreciate all the time she dedicates to not only making sure her students are successful and prepared for college, but also building their confidence and making them feel that they matter. A HUGE thank you to Cathlina for her support of all her students and for USD 373 staff!

I am writing to give a shout out to Michelle Schrag for all the amazing support she gives to our daughter who is a special ed student. Our daughter loves school, and Michelle is a big part of that. Our daughter has had to change schools several times, due to our various job relocations. At times, with teachers in the past, it felt to her and us like she was not given credit for being the amazing person she is, and that instead, her struggles were accentuated. All that changed when we moved to Kansas, and she became a part of Michelle's class. Now our daughter feels special and celebrated. We feel that her positive attributes are emphasized by Michelle. She loves school and looks forward to going every day. Michelle is very patient, and she always takes the time to email us with any concerns that come up. She is always making adjustments as needed to support our daughter and her learning.

I would like to see Coach Bookout and Coach Bergquist featured. This summer, during Cross Country summer training, Coach Bookout stayed an extra 20-30 minutes in Athletic Park after practice, with our daughter. I was running late to pick her up-he took his own time to make sure our daughter was safe--she would have been left alone there, otherwise. He did not have to do this! She has taken the time to get to know our daughter, and is very kind. They both have great attitudes and are beyond caring. We are blessed to have Coach Bookout and Bergquist.

I’d like to give a shout out to Mr. Smith, the new high school principal. For actually caring about fine arts and the department. He's not an “all sports and only sports matter” principal. So far I'm impressed by him.

I would like to give a big shout out to Math Teacher Kalen Hilst. He has done a fantastic job of keeping students, as well as their parents, informed of upcoming quizzes, available resources, encouragement and advice. He has also made it very clear that he is available to the students for questions. I have truly been impressed!

I want to nominate Tonya Koehler. She is very nice and works with my daughter very well and she's always there for her.

We had some issues with bullying and I had emailed the principal (Caleb Smith) in the evening, and he had me call him that evening.

I felt like that was going above and beyond.

Miss LaDawna and Miss Polly--I would like to acknowledge the two wonderful women for the job they do on the bus route. Not only do they make my kids feel safe, but also sing songs and make the route enjoyable!

Mr. Flores went above and beyond to help me get transportation for my daughter. We are going through a very rough time in our family. And it is much appreciated.

Ivy Ray is my counselor and she has been so helpful in guiding us as we navigate college applications, Rules, tutoring, etc. She always goes above and beyond and if she doesn’t know the answer she always finds out.

I have a few teachers who have been great at the start of the year. First, Joanie Pauls and Autumn Altum have been two wonderful coaches for the Girls Golf Team. They are positive role models who push their athletes but also make the game fun. They constantly encourage the players while instructing them in both skills and strategy. My daughter loves playing for them.

Also, the debate coach, David Williams. My daughter is brand new to debate but is enjoying the experience thus far. He was willing to come in on a Saturday to help the novice debaters get ready plus he stays after school and has an assortment of tools to help them learn. He also has been very flexible with the kids’ schedules.

And how about a shout out for Samantha Anderson! You do all of those Q&A sessions from the start of Covid plus you have got to be one of the most positive people I know. Thanks for everything you do for Newton 373. (Editor’s note: I didn’t write this….neither did my mom)

Monty Graber has been an amazing help every single day. He has a Google meet set up every day without fail and offers to help with not only his class but any other questions my son may have. He's been very helpful and dedicated to my remote learner and his success. Thank you!!!

Tyler Ives has been great with my remote learner. He is always trying to include him in band as much as possible with his livestreams for band class. I'm so glad he's trying to engage with all band students! Thank you!!!

Shout out to Ms. Enfield (1st) who went above and beyond by attending my daughter's piano recital! She was so proud to have you there!

Shout out to Mrs. Bartel (K) who went above and beyond by looking for creative ways to meet with her students during quarantine! My son loved going hiking with you!

Shout out to Ms. Adkins (1st) and Mrs. Crawford (3rd)! My children love having you as teachers! Thanks for all that you are doing to make this an amazing year!

Shout out to ALL teachers, administrators and staff who are doing such an excellent job of caring for our children's well being during this unprecedented time! Thank you for caring for their hearts, minds and bodies! Thank you for your flexibility, creativity and understanding! We are grateful for you!

I’d like to recognize Mr. Watson. He is my son’s special needs teacher and every day he helps keep my son focused on schoolwork. He has made a great impact on my son’s outlook on education and helps us see how we can work with our son to get through daily things. My son may not be the top of his class but he is talking, communicating his needs and wants, and reading which is far better than when he started his educational journey. Mr. Watson is helping fit the puzzle pieces together with our son’s ASD.

Jessica Crabtree would be a great one as she has been our tech guru in house and has made a number of videos explaining how to do things for students, staff and parents.

She has been helpful in teaching and supporting teachers on using Canvas. She goes above and beyond her job description to help out the "Railer Family

Our family stayed home unexpectedly due to possible COVID19 symptoms, pending testing (all negative and all back to school since). We notified Slate Creek office that morning as well as emailed Mrs. Keisler (4th grade) around 7:30 am. Mrs. Keisler emailed back a Zoom link for our son and by 8:10 am, he was working with his class via Zoom. Mrs. Keisler pulled our son in, let him know what to expect and made him feel like he was part of the class from home. He was engaged with the school work all day. It was the best I've ever seen him work online. He didn't complain once. Mrs. Keisler was professional and made it look easy. I know that the seamless transition our son experienced takes work and really want to commend Mrs. Keisler for that

I want to shout out to Jerome Goering, a custodian at the high school. He has volunteered to help me with some tedious tasks.

Mrs. Wiemer at Northridge has gone way above and beyond for our student! She is always available with questions and gets back to us almost instantly. She's so kind and listens to the kids’ feelings. Remote is hard on these kiddos, she gets it and works with them every step of the way! We love her!

Erica Rickard-She can teach math like no other! Thank you for your patience in instructing our boys!

Mark George-Our senior has learned more about current events and history in the last four weeks due to your interesting class discussions! Thank you!

Kim Powell-We love all the delicious food coming home! Yum & thank you!

I want to give a shout out to Ms. Easterday-the Structured Learning teacher at Northridge.This is the third year she has been my child's teacher. THIS WOMAN IS AMAZING!! She has always gone above and beyond for her students, each one requiring individual, specialized education. This semester, my child is learning remotely and Ms. Easterday has done so many things to accommodate this. She has been incredibly patient and unbelievably flexible. I hope that she gets the recognition she deserves!

We would like to thank Amber Warsnak and Reagan Seidl for their leadership and support during the challenging start of the year. It was not easy to navigate the changes to the school year then adding in all of the documentation that needed to be completed to meet the laws, policies and regulations of special education. Reagan and Amber bring a wealth of knowledge and years of experience to sped staff. We appreciate their commitment to the staff and students and support to the many teams in our district.