Return to Headlines

Tuesday Talk with Dr. Dain - November 10, 2020

Greetings Pirate Nation!

First of all, HOW ‘BOUT THOSE CHIEFS?  Sunday’s game was a nail-biter against the Carolina Panthers, but obviously all of my husband’s yelling at the television pulled out another victory for our guys in red!  It’s so fun seeing our city come together and show such intense pride.  Lamar Hunt would be eating this up.

Full Disclosure…. when I accepted this job in December of 2019, my worst fear was having to call my first snow day.  Throw a tiny, world-wide pandemic into the mix…and POOF…. calling a snow day doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore.  But anyhow, let’s talk SNOW DAYS!  Now that the district is 1:1 and 50% remote learning, I have been fielding questions regarding if we will continue to have snow days due to inclement weather—or if an inclement weather day just becomes a remote learning day.  Well, to the disappointment of children and teachers everywhere (insert the sarcasm), it isn’t quite that easy.  In order for us to count a remote learning day towards our 1,116 hours of schooling that must be completed during a school year, we must serve lunch.  So, as we think about cancelling school due to inclement weather, it seems counterintuitive to ask our kitchen staff and student body to miss school but get out and drive to pick up lunch.  Therefore, at the current time and/or until we get close to using all of the snow days built into the school calendar, inclement weather days will NOT become automatic remote learning days.  In other words, we will still need to utilize traditional snow days if the weather prevents us from safely transporting students to school.

I hope this community is aware of the fantastic Board of Education we have in Piper; they are diligently working behind the scenes to support students, teachers, and community stakeholders in whatever ways humanly possible.  Last night was no exception, and we had several noteworthy items “Approved” on last night’s agenda:

1.    Amended School Calendar for December 17th & 18th:  Prior to last night’s meeting, the school district’s 2020-2021 calendar noted both December 17th & 18th as half days for students and half-days for teacher work days.  The Piper Teacher Association suggested moving December 17th to a full day for students, making December 17th the last day before winter break for students.  Additionally, December 18th would then become a full work day for teachers.  The Board of Education supported this suggestion, and so we would ask families to make note of this change on their December calendars!  Click here for a revised version of the calendar.

2.    Exterior Wall Signage for Piper Prairie Elementary:  Although the Piper Prairie Elementary school building has been in existence for 10 years, it currently does not have any exterior signage.  School signs provide the essential means of communication and accent school pride between the school and its community, parents, students, and teachers.  School signage should be integrated with the building’s façade while simultaneously being instructional; at the most fundamental level, school signage denotes a school’s location.   At last night’s meeting, the Board of Education approved new lettering that will be added to the front of Piper Prairie Elementary School!

3.    Student Chromebooks: The Piper School District was fortunate enough to receive $380,000.00 from the Wyandotte County Cares Funding; the Provider Relief Funds supports American families, workers, businesses, and the heroic healthcare providers in the battle against the COVID-19 outbreak.  At the current time, we have 703 HP 11 G3/G4 Chromebooks that are 7 years old and will expire off Google’s Auto-Update Policy (Google AUP) in September 2021. Chromebooks are supported by Google with software updates for 7-9 years, depending on model and hardware specs of the device.  When software updates expire, although the Chromebook itself continues to function, applications installed that require updated Chrome software will cease to function.  This would include assessment applications in addition to any learning and class-specific applications.  Because of this expiration of software support, we must look at replacing our current stock of HP 11 G3/G4 Chromebooks before September 2021.  As we continue to educate students in the middle of a pandemic, it is imperative that we have 1:1 devices available for students in the case that we move to 100% remote learning.  Last night the Board of Education approved spending $240,000 of our CARES Funds to go towards updating our needed student Chromebooks.

4.    Supplemental Custodial Staffing: Historically, recruiting and retaining staff for entry-level positions within the district, specifically custodians, has been a difficult task. One of the biggest hurdles the district has faced is applicant traffic. The district has tried a variety of strategies to solicit more applications such as posting to employment search websites (e.g., Indeed.com), social media shares, paid advertisements, and notices in district-wide publications. Although we have tried to get along without a full custodial staff, based on the intensive cleaning needs of having schools open during the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt it was prudent to solve this problem in a different manner.  We are appreciative of the Board’s approval of a new partnership with ATS, a national company based out of Lincoln, Nebraska specializing in security and facilities services. Within the facilities sector, many of the clients they work with are K-12 school districts. Within our area they are working with Bonner Springs, Basehor, and Wellsville, among others throughout the state of Kansas.   We will begin our partnership hiring 5 ATS workers to supplement our own custodial staff.  A huge thank you to our Board of Education for recognizing and filling this gap! 

This week’s COVID briefing with Wyandotte County focused on the increased number of positive cases, increased numbers of COVID-19 tests being administered, and decreased number of available hospital beds in all of the Kansas City Metro Hospitals.  As the Health Department relates to our district, I do not have any insightful updates to any changes they are willing to make—specifically in allowing us to NOT cohort our secondary students.  As you will remember, they have given us permission to bring back secondary students but only if we keep secondary students in cohorts, which is really difficult to do.  At the elementary level this is easy—a class has the same teacher all day and so that classroom and teacher become a cohort.  But at the secondary level, with students having 8 teachers, grouping a cohort of kids that have the same 8 teachers is nearly impossible.

Currently, our secondary administrators are working in collaboration with our Director of Teaching & Learning, Jolene Jackson, to meet the needs of our secondary students who are struggling academically in the remote environment.  Below are the outcomes in which we are currently discussing:

Outcome 1: Take stock on what we are doing to ensure our Tier I/II Protocols are being implemented across the remote learning environments.  What might be our concerns?  What data can we look at/gather to support or refute our concerns? List the concerns and data to gather.

Outcome 2: Come together to ensure we have clear remote learning expectations for teachers and students.  Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports is part of our Tier I protocol.   Ensure we have a Remote Learning Matrix.  Ensure it is created with staff and taught to all students. 

Outcome 3: Brainstorm a bold, innovative, creative plan for providing support to our Tier III students within our current constraints set forth by our county health department.

Outcome 4: Create a remote learning grading policy. 

Outcome 5:  Have a clear picture of what percentage of students are at-risk of not graduating (what is the criteria for a freshman, sophomore, junior and senior?  Discuss and list what conversations we need to be having at the district and building level in this area.

School-based COVID Testing
Since last week, we have administered 14 saliva COVID-19 assessments free-of-charge for both students and staff who are not feeling well and/or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.  We are very thankful for this benefit being offered via the Health Department.
If your student is tested for COVID at school, one of the district nurses will send negative results to your email within 24-48 hours after the testing date. If the result is positive, a district nurse will call you with the positive result.

Updated Piper School District COVID-19 Data:
                                          Students (9/9-11/10)    Staff (8/12-11/10)
Piper Early Childhood       0                                 2
Piper Prairie Elementary   9                                 1
Piper Creek Elementary    10                               2
Piper Middle School          5                                 1
Piper High School             9                                 1

Meal Pickup Reminders
Thank you to our Food Service staff who continue to offer meal pickup options for our students! Please remember that you must sign up for meal pickups. This ensures our staff have enough meals prepared. Meal signup must be completed for the week by Sunday at 6:00 p.m. The signup form will be shut down at that time. It will re-open for meal sign ups again on Wednesday for the following week. Click here to visit the sign-up link. This link is always available on the homepage of the district website.

For the safety of our Food Service staff, we'd like to ask that the party doing the drive-thru pick up please wear a mask. We want to make sure all of our staff stay healthy and safe so they can keep providing this great service to our community.

Livestreaming District Sports
Looking for a way to support the Piper Pirates while still following social distancing guidelines?  We are thrilled to share with you the new livestreaming capability we have purchased in order to follow Piper Middle School and Piper High School athletic events and activities.  Our new platform is called The NFHS Network!  Looking to purchase a subscription? To subscribe to the NFHS Network, simply go to www.nfhsnetwork.com/subscribe/retail and select the All-Access Monthly Plan. You will need a valid email to create an account.  From there, just search for Piper High School in KCK.  All games are listed under the high school, but both the MS and HS schedules are included. 

Can’t livestream but want to stay up-to-date?  Don’t forget to “FOLLOW” these handles on Twitter:
@PiperUSD203
@PiperPirates (PHS Activities)
@piper_middle (Piper Middle School)
@PiperCreek (Piper Creek Elementary)
@PiperElementary (Piper Prairie Elementary)

Proud to be a Pirate,
Dr. Jessica Dain