Topeka Public Schools participates in national webinar about reopening schools

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 6:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson told a virtual crowd of over 12 thousand Thursday that returning to school amid a pandemic can be a gateway to improve education within a school district. 

“See this as an opportunity not as a challenge or a barrier if your voices aren’t heard be strategic in offering voice and suggestion,” she told the attendees of “Respond, Reimagine, Restart”.

Anderson used examples of how Topeka Public Schools (TPS) navigated teaching during COVID-19.  

 Anderson said a successful reopening amid the pandemic can be done if schools give attention to three areas: trust, support systems, and high expectations and to ask where improvement is needed.

“Think about your district right now out of those three things before you left during the pandemic or for spring break which one of those things were not necessarily where they needed to be for students to reach the highest levels they could?” 

She said accomplishing internet equity for remote learning was a vital part of transitioning TPS students to the new classroom. 

“We purchased hot spots and we also learned there are other gadgets you can put on buses we parked buses in neighborhoods and we were able to give wifi to the surrounding areas.” 

She said it's key to keep students' minds and bodies active even when school looks different. 

"Think about how you are going to engage kids whether they are a virtual learners or not for us we actually had P.E. and art all summer long we encouraged students to get offline we had porch drop off art supplies."

Anderson said educators need to keep families engaged during the changes she said one of the ways she kept parents involved was through the creation of an online COVID-19 resource center for school families so they could stay up to date.

Other ways she suggested to check-in on students was by providing resources for their well-being and suggests looking to the community for help.

She said TPS partnered with local hospitals to provide mental health resources for students who were adjusting to being away from the classroom. 

“It may not necessarily be your own staff it may be the clergy down the street use all of those resources because our kids are counting on you I’m counting on you and I need you to say count me in.”

TPS has been using surveys and hosting virtual conferences with families and teachers as the district developed its reopening plans. 

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