By William

LINDSBORG – With all the commotion going on about trying to get the new school year up and going while also dealing with a pandemic called coronavirus, we had a chance to take a look at the current status of area school districts and where they are standing at the moment with their preparations.

Each school district with students from McPherson County were contacted and today we share our discussion with Superintendent Glen Suppes of Smoky Valley USD 400.

pic = Superintendent Glen Suppes

What may be at the forefront of the minds of all those families with future students, became the first question we asked of Superintendent Suppes. That question was – what the date was in which USD 400 was aiming for to start the 2020-21 school year?

According to Suppes, “Smoky Valley will begin the school year on Thursday, September 3.”

We then asked the Smoky Valley Superintendent what he felt were likely the biggest obstacles that needed to be dealt with before beginning the new school year and how was USD 400 hoping to deal with them?

“Developing the best appropriate protocol to keep our kids and our staff safe while learning the processes and then practicing them,” was the response from Suppes. “Another obstacle would be preparing to deliver instruction remotely. We all know this is not the best model to deliver a quality education – we need our kids together and with their teachers.”

Looking for the pluses that USD 400 has going for their staff and students at this point of trying to move forward into the new school year without a hitch, was our next question.

Suppes replied with excitement as he noted, “With approximately 170 employees within the district, every single staff member has indicated that they will be returning and will do whatever it takes to provide services to our kiddos. They ALL want to be here. Even though many may be high-risk or have serious concerns about COVID-19, I’m extremely pleased to see that our entire team is committed to the students of Smoky Valley.”

With all those obstacles being thrown at the school districts due to the pandemic, we inquired as to how the district’s staff, parents and community were doing as far as their worry, support, and help in trying to see you do your best in getting this new school year right from the very beginning?

“We have many staff members who have worked throughout the summer,” remarked Suppes. “Most are not under contract, but they volunteered on teams and committees to help us develop reopening plans. Parents and patrons of the Smoky Valley school district have been extremely supportive and have granted us grace while we try to build a solid model for bringing our kids back together.”

Another hill to climb for the upcoming school year is dealing with the extra-curricular activities such as sports, concerts, theatre productions, and academic competitions such as debate or forensics.

We wanted to know how Superintendent Suppes looked at implementing that safely.

Suppes pointed out the response from the state when responding to the extra-curricular activities when he added, “After the announcement by the KSHSAA (Kansas State High School Activities Association), we are optimistic that a large majority of our activities can and will take place. Granted, things will look different, but we will do our best to provide every child with extra-curricular activities as long as we possible can if conditions will allow.”

As we finalized our questions regarding the reopening of the school year under such unusual circumstances such as the pandemic, we asked the superintendent to share with us their concerns, comments, or questions that they felt the public may still need to know or be patient with as all the school districts work on jump starting the new school year?

Once again, Suppes was pleased with the overall reaction and support from the greater Smoky Valley school district and he shared that with us as he concluded he outlook on the upcoming 2020-21 school year.

“The surrounding communities that make up the Smoky Valley school district have always been extremely supportive of our school children and the public schools. Many have reached out to volunteer, donate, or just to say, ‘Thank You’. In return, we would like to extend our appreciation to our patrons for their generosity. It is comforting to know that we may not always get it right the first time, but our parents are always right there to lend a helping hand and extend their genuine support. What a wonderful community we have!”

There we have the positive and passionate outlook to the 2020-21 school year for Smoky Valley USD 400 as seen from the eyes of Superintendent Glen Suppes.

So may we all remember the highly unusual circumstances in which the new school year begins under, and may we all make note to say thank you to the Superintendent and all the staff of USD 400 for working so hard the past months in order to help get the kids back in school as strong as ever and more importantly now – as safe as ever.

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