Letter From USD 223 Superintendent John Whetzal Regarding COVID-19


Good afternoon,

At last night’s Board of Education meeting, it was decided to extend Thanksgiving Break one more day through Monday, November 30, 2020. Students will return to school on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. This change intends to allow an additional day, after the holiday, for any possible symptoms to show for staff or students before resuming classes. Parents, if your child is not feeling well or is exhibiting symptoms at any time, please keep them home.

We, as a county, are taking our turn in dealing with COVID-19 and have been fortunate in not having had a large-scale quarantine for staff or students to this point. I hope to keep this trend going. For that to happen, we need your cooperation in monitoring your child’s symptoms while away from school. If they exhibit anything other than normal health conditions, we ask you to err on the side of caution and keep them out of school until feeling better. USD 223 staff will also be monitoring students throughout the school day. If another staff member or student exhibit symptoms or are not feeling well, they will be isolated from the student body and/or sent home.

I understand how much of an inconvenience this is for everyone. However, it is much less of an inconvenience than having to transition into a Remote Learning for students, staff, and families will be. With the uptick of positive COVID-19 cases and flu season moving in on us, we must remain diligent, transparent, and honest in doing this. We are doing our best to keep these young men and women in the buildings for everyone’s sake. This will take a team effort through the winter months and flu season. I am hoping that an ounce of prevention will be worth a pound of cure.

For clarification going forward, I need you to know when I will publicly notify of a positive case, quarantine, or exposure. There has been some confusion in a couple of circumstances, and I need everyone to understand the protocol. I will only put information out publicly, through social media and school notification, concerning an exposure or quarantine, if it directly impacts any student or impedes the regular school day. If a staff member tests positive or is placed in quarantine, which does not affect any student or the school day, I will not publicly post that information.

Tempers are short, everyone is stressed, and bad days are not uncommon for anyone right now. Although, COVID-19 has been around for months, we have been on the outside looking in as it has not significantly impacted our daily lives until recently. Everyone needs to remain cognizant of the fact that we are all in this together with the ultimate goal of doing what is best for our students and in keeping our doors open. We can do this but we’re going to have to do it together while giving some grace.

Please feel free to contact me directly should you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you,
John Whetzal
Superintendent of Schools
USD 223

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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