Manhattan-Ogden School District superintendent Marvin Wade said he is concerned about the increasing rates of COVID-19 cases in the Manhattan area and is closely monitoring the situation as the new school year approaches.

Wade told board members this week that although there are currently no changes to the school reopening plan, his team is reviewing the district’s pandemic protocols and will balance those with any new information administrators may receive during their meeting with the medical advisory task force July 27.

“After that meeting, we’ll get another email update out to staff and families, probably later next week, on where we’re at with our plan,” Wade said.

The reopening plan calls for students to return to classrooms in-person five days a week starting Aug. 18. People who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks inside school buildings. People who are not vaccinated must wear a mask. For children under age 12 who are not eligible for inoculation, the choice to wear a mask to class is left up to their parents or guardians.

Wade said the district is “still in a better position” now than it was at the same time last year. He said he is encouraging people aged 12 and older to “get vaccinated if you can.” To boost vaccination efforts, Wade said Riley County Health Department officials will be present during the district’s central registration event.

Parents can enroll their children in school online right now through the USD 383 website, as well as in person on July 30 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Manhattan High School West Campus, 2100 Poyntz Ave. That same day, the health department will offer free Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the MHS library. Wade said there will be some incentives for people to get vaccinated, including giveaways of gift cards and school supplies for students.

Wade said parents are encouraged to check their child’s temperature before sending them to school, as there will not be temperature screenings for those entering school buildings.

“If you are sick, stay home,” Wade said. “Of course, school nurses can check temperatures if they think a student is sick, but it’s not uniform as everybody comes in.”

Wade said the district still has a lot of mitigation measures in place and some of those will carry on through the end of the pandemic, like hand sanitizer stations and regular disinfecting of surfaces. He said the COVID-19 data dashboard on the district website will likely return for the 2021-22 school year, but he said it may need some improvements to be a more effective tool.

In other business, board members approved the purchase of four new 71-passenger school buses for $362,496 and two new 21-passenger buses for the special education program for $140,391. The buses come from Midwest Transit Equipment of Illinois through the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) bus purchasing program. The price includes a four-camera surveillance system on each bus, as well as installation costs.

The bus-buying program is voluntary. Twice a year, the Kansas Department of Transportation will send an invitation for school districts to bid on new vehicles. KDOT then sends those bids to KSDE for review.

The board also voted in favor of an agreement with Heartland Works of Topeka to provide support for the district’s career and technical education program. The district received a $107,500 pilot grant through federal Carl D. Perkins funds. The Perkins grant was authorized for the 2020-21 school year, and as part of the grant the district will partner with a regional work-based learning intermediary group to support and develop career and technical education programs in USD 383.

Heartland Works will act as the learning intermediary, and the district will pay the agency $70,000 from the total grant amount before July 31. The agency is tasked with conducting an inventory of regional work-based learning opportunities and coordinating with the district and Manhattan Area Technical College to put more career awareness and opportunities in front of middle and high school students.

As part of the agreement, Heartland Works will facilitate the creation of virtual reality curriculum, in collaboration with Kansas businesses and industries, to allow students to explore career pathways virtually. The agency also will report the number of students engaging in career awareness, exploration, and preparation programs.

Board members also approved the following items:

  • A change order and amended guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for $73,565 in additional work at Frank Bergman Elementary with BHS Construction. The change order includes increased prices for exterior doors and frames as well as media center materials and mini blinds in classrooms.
  • A separate GMP amendment and change order of $19,478 for installation of restroom partitions and painting the gymnasium at Bergman Elementary. BHS Construction will also handle this work. This and the previous change order bring the guaranteed maximum price for Bergman Elementary renovations to $5,018,226.
  • Even though it’s a set price, the district can request changes to the guaranteed maximum price if costs go over projections.
  • A change order for Eugene Field Early Learning Center. Additional costs for modifying a steel staircase, along with improvements to IT infrastructure, will add $50,057 to the guaranteed maximum price for that project. This brings the guaranteed maximum price for the project to $7,043,402.87.
  • Updates to the IT department handbook.
  • Multiple items in the consent agenda, including updates to district handbook policies and $16,600 worth of donations. A $12,600 cash grant from Riley County Raising Riley will go to College Hill Early Learning Center for reduced fees for families, and a $4,000 cash donation from Raising Riley will go to Eugene Field Early Learning Center for behavioral and mental health support personnel.