District Update

January 13, 2021

Video Recap of January 13 Newsletter

January 13 Newsletter Recap

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 moved to make a change in the gating criteria. Details and explanation are in the Superintendent’s Corner below.

Additionally, Mallory Morton was named the board president and Melissa Schreiber was named the vice president.

Full board meeting (three parts) below:

January 11 BOE Meeting Part 1
January 11 Board of Education Meeting Part 2
January 11 Board of Education Meeting Part 3

Facebook Live Q&A

USD 373 Board of Education Recap

Q&A With Mr. Van Ranken

How would the new rolling hybrid schedule work if there is a short week?

We would try to sequence it if we would have a short week. For example, if Friday A was on site, we had Monday off then Tuesday B would be on site. We will try to keep the number of A and B days consistent. It may need to be adjusted based upon things like snow days.

How would special education work with the new schedule?
It will work as it does now. Our special education staff will make whatever adjustments they need. I don’t see a ton of changes other than the time that they’re going to be on campus. That’s always based solely upon the context of the student's needs.

What new testing opportunities will staff and possibly students have?

We will be working with the WSU molecular lab. They have a bit of a faster turnaround--possibly 24 hours with surveillance testing. Any staff member that wants to do that can. We’ll have a schedule. It will be free of charge through the end of the school year. We hope to have it all in place by the second semester. We will also offer some antigen testing which will be a rapid test for individuals with symptoms. That will be provided by the Harvey County Health department. Their turnaround time is within an hour. As a staff, you’ll have to give consent for the tests. If we do test students in the future, parents will also have to give consent.

Will the high school continue the bell schedule?

Superintendent's Corner

COVID Numbers

The numbers this week taken from logs maintained locally are (1/8/2021):

• Students quarantined: 128 on 1/8/2021 (148 students on December 17)

• Staff quarantined: 38 on 1/8/2021 (27 staff on December 17)

• Active cases: 31 active cases the morning of 1/8/2021, including 16 students and 15 staff

(24 active cases including 17 students and 7 staff prior to the break)

Gating Criteria Update

The gating committee met prior to and directly after the holiday break. As a result of those meetings, consultation with other outside entities (including the HCHD), a recommendation will be made on Monday evening at the BOE meeting as follows:

We would extend the current mode through the end of the first semester, which will end on

January 21. This allows for the current final exam schedule to be utilized at the secondary level

without modification.

Attendance beginning January 25 up through February 12 would be as follows:

After the semester ends, we would essentially abandon color designations to determine the mode of learning.

  • Elementary (PreK-6): Full day, 100% in attendance.

  • Grades 7-12: Hybrid attendance (OA would remain in this category but follow their current hybrid model).

    • The hybrid model would change in that students would be in attendance daily on a hybrid A and B-day rotation.

      • If there was a snow/inclement weather day, we would have to have an administrative conversation to set that pattern of it either being a lost day in terms of the rotation, or we shift it upon return to school.

      • There would be no more remote Wednesdays.

      • Example schedule:

        • Week 1 M-A Tu-B W-A Th-B Fri-A

        • Week 2 M-B Tu-A W-B Th-A Fri-B


    • Going more restrictive would be considered on a school-by-school basis if there is transmission within close contact groups. This would be done in a manner similar to what we have done with staffing issues

    • Buildings would go remote based upon issues associated with staffing as has already been established in protocol (supt. consultation with the BOE president).

What this essentially means is that we will continue to make relatively long-range commitments to having students onsite and adjust at the building level. In addition, if quantitative conditions

get to a level that warrants full attendance, the BOE will then consider this at a regular meeting.

There are some additional things to consider as we move forward:

  • Our local health professionals and others involved with contact tracing, working with the HCHD, are doing a great job at a building level as it relates to active cases, contact tracing and isolation/quarantine situations. This will allow us to make quick and responsible decisions at the building level if there is spread within a school.

  • All want as much certainty in relation to schedules as is possible while leaving room to make necessary adjustments.

  • If you look at weekly data from after the first week of school until now, consistently using state data (not what was originally used in determining criteria as this has changed over time), using the three criteria (% positive, trend and attendance data), we would have been in this mode of operation 64.7% of the time.

  • The rollout of vaccinations, which are not locally available to school staff other than our health professionals, will impact what we are able to do regarding full attendance for the secondary level.

Just for background knowledge, on January 8, USD 373 Nurse Karen Lehman and I had a discussion with three physicians from the Kansas Covid Workgroup for Kids about this plan. Dr. Kari Harris, Dr. Stephanie Kuhlmann and Dr. Paul Teran were supportive of this approach. We specifically asked about the concerns around whether or not grades 5 and 6 should be more aligned with the secondary students or the elementary. The comment was that wherever the natural break is with elementary, whether it was grade 5 or 6, that age group should be in full attendance if possible. Since they are together, keeping them onsite does make sense.

I am being as transparent about what we are trying to accomplish and share as much about the process as I can.

Additional Testing

To assist with the previous item, we are going to get the voluntary saliva-based PCR surveillance (non-symptomatic) testing through WSU going within the next couple of weeks. This will be voluntary, surveillance testing, meaning you do not have to be symptomatic in order to participate. It is also a PCR test that will have a fast turnaround (24 hours at the most during the week).

We are also going to do rapid testing onsite as well for those that are symptomatic that want that option. This is a nasal swab and an antigen test, meaning if you are negative, the only way to avoid quarantine/isolation as a symptomatic individual is through validation with a PCR test. If you are positive, you follow quarantine protocol. The turnaround on this test is within an hour from what I understand.

We hope to have this available within the next couple of weeks. Specifics will be out soon.

7-12 Grade New Schedule Breakdown

Mr. Buller at Chisholm Middle School made this video to explain the new schedule for 7-12 graders. You can view it below if you still have questions!
New Schedule Video 7-12

New Information

Board Member Appreciation Month

We’d like to send a big thank you to our board members for all they do for the students, families staff and community. It’s not always an easy job, especially during the last year, but we are so grateful you do it.

Important Reminders

Murder Mystery

Are you interested in thrilling tales, putting together clues, and solving murders--all from the safety of your own living room? HAVE WE GOT AN OFFER FOR YOU!!! NHS Thespians is holding a virtual murder mystery experience! For $25, you'll be given both digital clues and a box of evidence that will help you solve this horrible crime. Can YOU help us figure out WHO KILLED HEIDRICK?? More information can be found on our website.


You’ll need to sign up by January 15 to get a box!

Boxes will be delivered on January 22 in a covid-aware fashion.

Please note: this was created to be family-friendly. There is fake blood, however.

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

Scholar's Bowl

The year has been different for all USD 373 activities and athletic teams and Scholars Bowl is no different. The pandemic has impacted the team in a number of ways including the number of meets they can go to, the number of teams that can compete in a meet and even how the competitions are done with some Scholars Bowls meets going completely virtual.

Despite all of these changes, the Railer Scholars Bowl team has continued its standard of excellence led by coaches Brian Skinner and Adam Williams. This year, there are about 25 students competing which is a little less than previous years. However, the varsity team has placed first in five of their six meets this year, which surpasses the already high standard of previous years.

Competition for the teams began in mid-October. Newton High School will be hosting regionals on February 1 where competitors can qualify for state which will take place on February 13. During competition, students answer a variety of questions on topics like current events, social studies, ELA, math and fine arts.

The Scholars Bowl Roster is made up of: Miguel Molina Chavez, Diego Aguilar-Maldonado. Ethan Neufeld, Jakob Senn, Benjamin Gering, Madeline Duncan, Kevin Aguilar-Maldonado, Elise Jantz, Eli Redington, Oliver Dungan, Lindsey Warsnak, John Koontz, Emily Tolbert, Josue Coy Dick, Isaac Pauls, Diego Coy Dick, Preston Vicenzi, Sadie Nattier, Erik Kaufman, Trey Swingle, Aidan Yoder, Conner Reed, Roselynn Wilkinson and Caleb Garber.

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.

Choir Honors

We told you last summer about Newton High School student Mackenzie Glassman’s accomplishment of making the All-National Choir. Now, she has been selected as one of four sopranos in the country to sing the descent on a song the group will sing.

NHS Students Of The Week

Big picture
Big picture

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.

I would like to shout out my son’s Kindergarten teacher, Miss Perkins at South Breeze! The last two days of the week before Christmas break, our whole family was quarantined. My son was devastated because he would miss the class Christmas party. Miss Perkins went out of her way to drop gifts off for him. He was so excited and it made his day even better. Thank you! She is the best!

Thank You to Lori Satterfield at Slate Creek for all the great learning support in the classroom. You are one of the best!

Traci Henning - is amazing. She engages students and staff in fun activities throughout the year. Her positive outlook is a ray of sunshine!

Penney Johnson at NHS does SO MUCH for students at NHS. She is willing to take on any task. She loves every single one of her students and really fights for them.

NHS teacher Roger Juhnke works really hard with his students to meet their different levels of needs.

Amy Freud is an amazing para at Newton High School. She works to fully understand the different content areas and really helps students grasp the concepts. NHS is lucky to have her.

Odette Salgado is a lifesaver at NHS! She goes above and beyond her role to help various staff members with their needs. Plus, students really value her input.

Mr. Buller is always very helpful. He takes the time to help me, and I know others with technology when asked. When I have asked him to help me this year, he usually stops what he is doing to come to my room. Additionally, Mr. Buller is a bus duty supervisor. He does a great job with the elementary kids after school. I see how they really enjoy being around him and talking with him.

Mr. Menninga has done a great job this year at CMS as the head principal. He is always very professional, but yet very personable at the same time. I always have great discussions with him about work and personal life. He does a great job showing calm and not letting stress get the better of him.

Angela Doerksen is an amazing addition to Santa Fe. Her sunny disposition is refreshing. We are blessed to have her as part of our family.

Jenny Bristol and Gina Skinner are amazing Administrative Assistants. Santa Fe would not function as smoothly without them. I appreciate their kindness, sincerity, and friendship. Thank you for making Santa Fe a happy place to work.

Shannon Kirtley is a wonderful interventionist. Santa Fe is so blessed to have her as part of our family this year. She works extra hard to support her students and her efforts do not go unnoticed.

Paul Morrison came back from a long absence and jumped right in, working with kids and learning new things! Paul is very flexible and accommodating to the needs of students and staff. His commitment to serving with kindness is amazing. Paul is an essential piece of the structured learning puzzle! Thanks for being here and for being you!

Penney Johnson has been such a team player during COVID. She has helped with truancy, as well as reaching out to students in need and helping them. Our Lucky Leprechaun is a valuable part of the team!

Even though Greg Dietz is retiring at the end of the year, he still has the passion of a first-year administrator. He's the first one here, often the last to leave, and doesn't take "the easy way out" just because he's leaving. His work ethic is one to be envied.

Georgetta Grimmett is a SpEd teacher at NHS and does a great job of connecting with her students. Her care and compassion for others is definitely an asset to the program. Georgetta has a great deal of patience and flexibility and does a wonderful job of exploring student strengths and giving praise and recognition.

Nate Wollenberg has done a great job of being flexible and accommodating to student needs during this school year. During his Google Meets, he consistently presents in a friendly and outgoing manner to help students increase engagement. He checks in and out with each student and offers support when needed.

I need to give a shout out to Ms. Latta at Chisholm. My daughter was having a rough time on Tuesday, and she took notice and jumped in and helped her through it. It helped my daughter immensely and meant the world to me to know that she has plenty of people looking out for her when I am not available at school. My student has many amazing teachers at Chisholm, but this meant the world to me.

I would like to give a shout-out to Mrs. Preheim. She has been patient with my daughter and has helped her along in her classes and projects. Since my daughter has been remote for most of the school year so far, she personally sent her Honor Roll to her for Q1 along with a personal encouraging card congratulating her and giving her additional words of encouragement and support. This was my daughter’s first time making the honor roll, and it sure was a big deal at our house.

My son has had a lot of challenges this year. Including being a new student three times this year. Mrs. Shrag is a kind and generous woman who has a naturally beautiful relationship with all her students and their parents. Mrs. Shrag generously and personally helped me transfer my son to another school. After we were done, she made sure my child knew he would be missed.When my son was transferred back to Newton, Mrs. Shrag was standing open-handedly and excitedly welcomed my son back. She always makes time to talk to me. I can only assume that she is like this with all of her students. I pray for this woman because I have never met anyone like her. Please let her know how much she means to my family.

Carmen Weller is a sweet, sweet song on an autumn day! Her students love it when she comes to class.

Cherie Wedel is a neat person. I am blessed to work with you!

Deana Waltrip- This admin is down to earth and really seems to care about her staff. She is very rarely fake and genuinely wants what is best for this school! We are glad to have you here!

Esmeralda Valle- She is a great worker and an amazing friend

Margaret Tipton is the world's best worker. She does everything and never complains!

Kristie Thompson is as sweet as the sky is blue. I am so lucky to be able to work with her.

Olivia Smith has such a unique mindset. She is a go-getter and works really hard during the workday!

Gina Skinner is more than just a front desk worker. She loves each and every one of the students that walk through the doors

Nick Sisson-This is the go-to guy! He is so kind and helpful. He is a lifetime learner and loves his students.

It’s been a rough past two and a half months! Not only with Covid changes and does/don’ts. But my daughter’s father passed away in October, her teachers Molly Schauf and Kim Powell have made a huge impact and relieving stress and the emotions she has had to go through. They have this special bond with her that I can’t express how thankful I am. They check in on her, help rearrange schedules so she doesn’t fall behind. They are just amazing teachers in our eyes. I am a student and work a full-time job. My daughter has been having car trouble so I share my car with her so she can get to school and work. There were a few times I’ve had to walk to where I’m going so my daughter can continue her education and earn money to pay her bills. GRACE. Sacrifice. My daughter wanted to make her senior year a memorable one, I think she has succeeded. I am so proud of my daughter and thankful for the teachers she has to accommodate all the curves life has thrown at us lately.

I would like to give a staff shout out to Anna Krehbiel. She is a para who comes to work in my room daily with some of my students. She is great at coming in and always jumping right in to assist students who need additional help. She is always so patient with my students. It is so nice to have her in my room helping students succeed.

Melissa Schwindt- Life would be utterly dull without you! Thank you for bringing new ideas to the table.

Michelle Regier- Thank you for loving all of us!

Kirstyn Pracht- You are so very talented as a teacher. I appreciate the many hours you spend finding research-based techniques.

Valorie Pfannenstiel- Thank you for being a kind coworker. I am appreciative of your friendship

Keith Penner- Thank you for caring about our safety. I am glad you speak up when you feel like something isn’t safe.

Ashley Park- Thank you for loving our students like they were your own children.

Ashley Nottingham- You are a bright light in our school! The past years have not been without their own struggles but you have been an encourager and you have shown me how to overcome! Thank you for being a great example to your students and your coworkers!

Jessica May- You are one of the most kind people I have ever met. You have true integrity and it shines! Thank you for always working so hard

Cecilia LaRose- This woman was born to be a teacher. She has natural born talents that make her an amazing para!

Beverly (Ann) Krehbiel- Words can not express how lovely you are. On the best of days, you make my heart feel so full and on my bad days, you remind me of who I am! Thank you for loving me!

Sara Kopper- I am so glad that you are on my team. You have such a caring heart.

Shannon Kirtley- How in the world did we get so lucky to have such a wonderful woman in our school. Not only does she care for her students but she goes overboard to make sure her co-workers feel appreciated. I am so blessed to have her in our school.

Michael Kirkpatrick- This job might not be Star Wars, but you are a lightsaber to work with. The kids really love your positive upbeat attitude.

Sarah Kaufman- Without art, life is lifeless. Keep showing those kids how much you love their creative spirit.

Carmen Jarrell has a heart full of peace and it is overflowing to her co-workers and students. The kids love going to her class. She makes real connections with her students.

Tiffany Huxman is such a sweet lady. She really knows how to make a person feel wanted. Thank you for being you.

Carol Haigler- I know life has been really hard on you this year. I am so proud of you! When life knocks you down, you get right back up and keep pushing. You are a queen.

Leisha Garver is a breath of fresh air. She is sweet and loving to everyone she sees.

Zully Garcia- How would your school survive without you? You are a blessing to have in this building.

Heidi Flores- Thank you for being an example of a lifelong learner. I know that this year hasn’t been as easy as you would think but you are really becoming a great leader. Keep up the hard work.

Cyndi Fiedler is really one of a kind. She has a heart unlike any other. She is caring and compassionate.

Jennifer Duncan- Words can not express the gratitude I have for Jennifer. She has not only been a model teacher but also helps us with the NEA stuff. She is dedicated to the profession and is knowledgeable in all subjects. She rarely misspeaks and is a role model for all of us!

Angela Doerksen really makes the marks with her students. She is a fun and sweet math teacher.

Janine Clayton- My heart is blessed to know Mrs. Clayton. She makes me feel like I am the most special person in the school. She is kind and caring and puts her whole heart into everything she does.

Bill Cartwell- Hey this dude sang to the kids during the holidays. I have never seen a happier group of kids.

Carol Budde is a determined teacher. She reaches out to families to ensure that they know what is going on.

Greg Bergman- Where words fail, music speaks. Greg, never stop playing.

Lauren Artaz- You’ve done an awesome job in preparing for the Covid season and improving and perfecting your teaching talents!

Kathy Archer- We’re so grateful for the passion you bring to the program that you teach. You are a gift to our students and to the Santa Fe Team.

Kelly Alexander equips youth by encouraging philanthropic behavior and experience.

Katelyn Buckman is a very nice gal.

Corbin Berner- It takes a special man to do what you do. It isn’t easy but you make it look so simple. You have such a cool and composed composition. Thank you for all that you do.

Brooke Bowman is a sweet sweet woman. She has a heart of gold and seems to love all of her students.

Jenny Bristol can make a horrible day turn into the best day of your life. She has such a loving and kind personality

John Buchanan is a breath of fresh air. His ideas are innovative and his classes love being part of his group!

Ryan Emmitt is a newer teacher. You can see that he has some great mentors because he is often trying new practices and researched ways to make his teaching effective.

Holly Engel is the world’s best nurse. She is able to really analyze a situation.

Kim Fischer- Way to go lady. You are really good at what you do and you are such a fun person to work with.

I’d like to give a shout out to Chris Jaax. He is my son’s US History teacher. He has been wonderful to work with during this difficult time and always responds quickly to my emails. I can tell he really cares about these kids! I’d like to thank him for that and let him know he is appreciated!

I want to give a shout out to Tiffany Stephey, the principal at Northridge. Every morning my son hates getting out of the car and begs to stay home until he sees her. She greets him with a smile and you can tell she just adores him. I truly believe she loves my kid as much as I do.

As soon as she says good morning, his attitude about getting out of the car and going to school changes. She is the best by far. She has made school feel like a safe and loving place for my children.

The person who is exceptional is Lenae Maybry in the Special Ed area. She treats all those students so lovingly and with great respect. She cannot jump to tend to their needs fast enough. She truly cares about each student and it shows. This is not the first time I've been in that room and seen her approach.

I’d like to do a shout out to second-grade teacher (Slate Creek) Sarah Harbour. She has done an amazing job this year. She is great in the classroom and when we’ve had to have remote days. Recently, she has been helping with my son’s transition as he works on his acceleration into third grade next semester. This is a crazy enough year as is and she has gone above and beyond to help him and our family. We are so thankful for her and all the other staff at Slate Creek who are involved in this.

Mike Hornberger from grounds does a fantastic job of going above and beyond. He is always very eager and willing to help and he does it all with a smile. Thanks, Mike! You're the best.

A huge thank you to Laurie Behymer for organizing great holiday games for the OA staff!

Samantha Kempf works so hard to make connections with students and get them excited about math class. She consistently communicates with students and their parents to offer them support. Keep it up, Mrs. Kempf!

A big THANK YOU to Jake Torres & Al Montano from transportation for going to Sante Fe and NHS and putting ice melt down on the walks so the kids didn’t fall. You guys are always looking out for the kids’ safety. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

In this crazy school year, Leeza Enfield has been a great remote teacher for my 1st grader! She offers the kids consistency and stability during this time while adapting and changing to make things work better. She has helped me, as a parent, adapt things when necessary and support my child in the best ways possible. Thank you, Ms. Enfield!

Shout out to our Chisholm Middle School Counselor, Ms. Jones, who is working tirelessly to help arrange schedules for our students who are switching learning modes and other classes for second semester while also helping our students who need additional SEL support. She is doing a fantastic job!

I would like to recognize Kim Powell. Kim has put in a lot of time to help her students still get great cooking instruction even while remote. If students were unable to come in on their cooking lab days, she was prepared enough to have ingredients and instructions packaged and ready to go for students to pick up and complete the lab at home. Even throughout this uncertain year, Ms. Powell has kept her cooking and bakery courses a constant for students.

November 23 BOE Meeting