With COVID-19 surging in the Salina area, local education leaders sent out out a message to the community Wednesday evening.
The statement from the superintendents of all three Saline County public school districts and Salina Catholic schools, along with the presidents of Kansas Wesleyan University, Kansas State University Polytechnic, and Salina Area Technical College reads:
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
So said the great Helen Keller, and as many of the region’s educational institutions and groups, we echo this sentiment.
We understand that a nontraditional opening to a school year creates a cascading effect on our community. Employees are forced to scramble for child care. Employers have to adapt policies on the fly. Community members are not able to attend the same events they otherwise would, translating into less revenue for our local economy.
We want to open fully without restrictions. We know most students learn best in the presence of a good teacher. And we acknowledge the important role we play in helping our region thrive.
We are key employers of the region – our institutions combine to employ nearly 3000 individuals. We are key economic drivers. We will be at the forefront of a new normal, whatever that may become.
Why do we share this? We need your help. Each of our institutions has a data-driven plan, created by medical professionals, that provides a point where we can loosen restrictions in various ways. If we can reach those benchmarks, schools would be able to operate in a more traditional way, benefiting our students, families and the local economy. At this time, the data in those plans simply does not support loosening those restrictions. This is where we need your help.
In order to positively affect the data and reduce the region’s risk for COVID-19, we need everyone to make choices that support public health. Wear masks. Limit gatherings. Social distance. Stay home when you don’t feel well. We need businesses, entertainment venues and local organizations to insist on safe practices.
Reducing the region’s risk of COVID-19 and allowing our educational institutions to operate without restrictions is about choices and behaviors in our community. Those choices are the impetus behind these operational decisions. Please help us ensure a safe education and a thriving economy in Salina. Together, we can meet this challenge.
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Geoff Andrews, Superintendent of Schools, Catholic Diocese of Salina
Linn Exline, Superintendent, USD 305, Salina
Greg Nichols, President, Salina Area Technical College
Brian Rowley, Superintendent, USD 307, Ell-Saline
Alysia Starkey, Ph.D., CEO and Dean, Kansas State Polytechnic
Roger Stumpf, Superintendent, USD 306, Southeast of Saline
Matt Thompson, Ph.D., President and CEO, Kansas Wesleyan University