Coronavirus situation ever-changing for students in Kiowa County

Hannah Brown
Kiowa County schools are now empty as students are on spring break March 16-22. USD 422 officials are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas and waiting to make the best decision for students in Kiowa County. Updates and announcements will be made on school websites, Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as messages sent to parents.

Kiowa County school officials, students and parents are watching, waiting and wondering what will happen next, along with much of Kansas, as the novel coronavirus spreads across the United States.

The Kiowa County USD 422 Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday, March 16 to discuss the precautions in relation to COVID-19 that would be implemented when school resumes on Monday, March 23.

Per recommendations from the Kansas State Department of Education, KCS would limit the number of kids gathered at once to under 50 while maintaining six feet between each student to stop the spread of germs. There would also be an effort to limit the number of students in each classroom at a given time. Kiowa County is currently on spring break this week, with classes slated to resume on Monday. The Kansas State Department of Education plans to have a recommendation in place by Wednesday or Thursday as to whether schools should hold classes or temporarily stop in-person courses.

"The Department of Ed is doing their best to figure out how to meet the needs of students. Right now, we're needing to be patient as they provide us this guidance and apply it locally," said USD 422 Superintendent Staci Derstein.

The situation is ever-changing, but Derstein said USD 422 is committed to communicating all plans with those in the community.

Likewise, Barclay College officals announced on March 12 that students would be given an additional week off for spring break in an effort to keep everyone healthy in wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic. President Royce Frazier said that classes were canceled through March 27. The leadership of BC will reconvene on March 24 to make the decision whether students can return to campus to continue classes or if all classes will be moved to an online format.

President Frazier said any students who can not travel home or any students with flight dates for the original spring break dates will be accommodated. Kaleigh Smallbeck, a junior at Barclay College from Washington, was worried she wouldn’t be able to go home to see her family. Washington has been a hub during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“My family and I are grateful that I was able to make it home. We are waiting for what Barclay says next, but are also watching to see what Washington does next and how it affects my travel back to Kansas (if Barclay decides to resume classes in person). There’s still some uncertainty on my end if I’ll be back in Haviland this semester if Barclay opens back up. I could get stuck in Washington if restrictions are put into place,” said Smallbeck.

There are currently no travel restrictions for the state of Washington, but that could easily change as this situation evolves. Smallbeck hopes to rejoin her “adopted” family in Haviland as soon as possible.

“Barclay and the Haviland community have become like my second family as I’ve been away from home the past three years now,” she said. “A lot of those families in town as well as faculty and staff at BC have “adopted” me into their families. My hope and prayer is that I’ll be able to finish the semester strong in Haviland alongside my Barclay and Haviland family.”