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Weather and ESSER

Greenback Family,


As we stare down another storm forecast, I want to give insight into our thinking as we make decisions on closing or delaying schools.  Of course, keeping our students safe while we keep them moving forward and progressing is our top priority.  We also understand that circumstances can vary for our families across the district, so we work to balance those competing concerns.  For some, a delay or a closure is a hardship because students might be left unattended because hardworking parents are doing just that…working.  At the same time, we understand an early notice is helpful for planning…but, weather is notoriously difficult to predict.  I often wish all storms could happen at a convenient time--that would be Wednesday at 7:00 pm because that’s really the only time we don’t have school or activities going, and trying to predict how we will get our people to school, to an event, or home from the event is a big challenge.  We certainly want to avoid limiting opportunities for our students.  And, I’m still young enough to remember the pure joy for some in hearing “snow day.”  However, I then realized I would be working in subzero weather on the farm—dad never called a snow day (we did take a break for a few snowball fights though).


For tomorrow, we will start with a 2-hour delay for a 10:10 start (per the announcement) to give us a chance to assess the conditions on the ground in the morning—we are on the edge of the snow/ice forecast at the time of this writing.  We may choose to close schools for the day depending on the conditions we see in the morning.  Often, inclement weather is predicted over the early morning hours and we will often use a delay to help parents plan and give us an opportunity to determine if we can make sidewalks, etc safe and if road conditions will be reasonably safe.  As always, we understand that families may be experiencing different conditions than we are seeing, and we trust our parents to make those decisions for family safety on those days.  Obviously, it’s a balancing act for schools and families.  I want to thank the Pratt County Emergency Management Team, the city, and the county for the work they do to help us make those decisions and keep us safe. 


While I have you…our Covid numbers are in significant decline after the steep Omicron spike.  We are moving closer to treating this as an endemic virus versus a pandemic.  I know it has disrupted lives and many have either experienced tragedy, scares, or severe hardship.  Because the data shows it is still a serious illness, we will still be requiring longer stays at home for covid-positives than a normal flu.  We continue to offer testing services through the school and the focus is on keeping only the covid-positive folks out of school or work.  We continue to consult with our county health department and I appreciate their tireless efforts in helping us navigate the pandemic landscape.  We have been blessed by our local team of healthcare professionals.


Finally, I have met with various groups (building and district site councils, some specialized focus groups, building leadership teams, and our board) before developing our Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding requests for the use of federal dollars.  Most of the early dollars went to purchase of supplies for managing the pandemic and Covid protocols.  We also spent dollars to improve ventilation and the filtering of air in buildings—we hope this is a long-term benefit during future flu seasons as well.  It’s not magic but we believe it will make a difference in the spread of any airborne communicable diseases, i.e. Covid, flu, etc.  From our own planning and hearing from parents, we know that there has been learning loss from extended quarantines and the 4th quarter of 2019-20.  Time in school with teachers matters. We will continue to offer expanded summer school for K-8 students over the next 3 summers.  We are also providing additional tutoring services for secondary students.  We have seen the increased social-emotional issues from this time.  But, we want to put elements in place to increase resilience because grit and resilience will serve our students well over the course of their lifetimes.  To that end, we are adding a social-emotional development coordinator at the middle school for next year and had added a Multi-Tiered System of Support coordinator for the middle school this previous year in an effort to jump start some programs for building capacity in our students and setting them up for success now and in the future. 


At the end of the day, we recognize that our parents are still the key.  Time and again, we see that resilient, gritty, accountable kids come from parents and guardians who have modeled that with their children.  Those students become our leaders and have a tremendous positive impact on our Greenback family.  Thank you!




Tony Helfrich

Pratt USD 382 Superintendent