The once packed town square now sits relatively empty as many stores and restaurants are forced to close during the quarantine.

School and community feel the effects of the COVID-19 Virus

--Summer Peak and Meredith Jacobs

   When teachers and students left the school building on Thursday, March 12 to attend the state basketball tournament, they had no idea they would not be returning for the rest of the school year.

   In wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, numerous events began to shut down, starting with the Big 12 basketball tournament in Kansas City. From there, KSHSAA ordered all state basketball tournaments to be shut down following the Thursday night games. Then on March 17, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly made the ultimate discussion to close school facilities for the remainder of the year.

   As Phillipsburg schools were already on spring break the week of March 16-20, administration and staff used that time to meet and plan the course of action they would take to address the academic and emotional needs of the students for the remainder of the school year.

   “We have been working on contingency plans since mid-March, including how we can meet the ongoing learning needs of our students and provide breakfast and lunch for our students,” Superintendent Mike Gower said in a statement to staff.

   Staff went through each hall locker and locker room locker and carefully placed the belongings in a trash bag labeled with the owners’ name. Art students also got a small package with drawing paper, scratch-off paper, charcoal, a white colored pencil and any art they had in their art lockers added to their bags.

Students and parents were then told through Panther alerts and email that on March 24 from 8am-12pm, students would retrieve their belongings by driving up to the front of the school where staff would hand them their belongings through their car windows.  As an added treat, Student Council prepared goodie bags for each student with vending machine products that were unsold.

   After belongings were returned to students, administration and teachers discussed options for meeting the teaching demands. Gower along with high school Principal Todd Bowman presented teachers the option to use ZOOM Cloud Meetings, Hangouts Meet by Google and other apps that allowed teachers to communicate with their classes online similar to Facetime. Bowman also had teachers create a spreadsheet that outlined the days and times they were going to have “Live” classes so classes would not overlap.

   “A lot of planning went into how we were going to meet the needs of the students and meet the guidelines of the state in educating students,” senior English teacher Robin Sides said. “We had several faculty meetings over Zoom to get acquainted with the application and received instruction on how to implement the live classes into our lessons.  As with anything new, there will be a period of adjustment to work out the kinks in the system.”

   Another consideration that the school had to address was meeting nutritional guidelines for 

the students.  With many parents working and limited supplies, the school district combined forces to ensure that each child still received an adequate breakfast and lunch. The Kansas State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition and Wellness team, Phillipsburg school district and Logan school district began working together to make sure students in Philliips County were fed.

   A grab ‘n go curbside pickup method was instituted to offer children meals. Monday through Friday 11:30--12:30, free meals (lunch and the following day’s breakfast) are offered to students and children ages 1-18, until the last scheduled day of school.

   Kansas’ schools aren't the only thing to close, all around the world public gathering places such as restaurants, shops and lots of other jobs that are deemed ‘unessential’ have been forced to shut their doors in an attempt to slow down the spread of the illness. 

   Essential businesses such as hospitals and grocery stores have to take precautionary measures to try and ensure they do not contribute to the spread of Covid-19 or to help make sure supplies last and are able to get to everyone. 

   Hospitals have staff at the entrances not just to greet people but to ask them questions related to Covid-19 so they are able to take correct cautionary measures. 

   Additionally, the hospital has created a temporary testing structure to screen patients who potentially have the virus.

   “Outfitting a shipping container as our testing pod gives us a more secured structure with our volatile weather than the common use of testing tents you may have seen in other locations on the news,” Tim Seifert, PA, said in a statement released by the hospital. “This will expediate our screening and potential testing of patients presenting to Phillips County Hospital’s Emergency Department. Our process is always improving and changing to better serve our patients and teams.”

   Stores like Whites have installed plexiglass windows in front of the registers and have signs up that prevent customers from over buying toilet paper, milk, eggs, etc. Several essential businesses such as Loves and Subway are allowing their employees to wear masks. 

   Other businesses are trying to limit contact as much as possible by offering curbside service, such as Witmer's Drug Store, Hometown Grounds, The Animal Hospital and Ace Hardware Store. Subway is also encouraging the use of their online ordering.

   With the first positive case of COVID-19 being reported in Phillips County on April 10, taking precautions has become more important than ever. Health professionals in Phillips County continue to urge residents to abide by the social distancing guidelines and take advantage of the services offered to assist with the quarantine.

Student reactions to the cancelling of spring events

“I simply was just devastated. I have been waiting for my senior track season since track ended last year.  When I found out, I think I was just in denial about it.  There is nothing worse than hearing your last time competing was last year.  Not getting the chance to make those memories and do the sport I love is really heartbreaking.  There will always be so many 'what-ifs' from here on out,” senior Lexie Wood said.

 “I feel some disappointment because I was really looking forward to improving my personal records this year and trying to break more school records.  I am really sad that I won’t be able to have the opportunity to try and qualify for state again this year, because it truly was an amazing experience last year.  It is now leaving me, and many other students, with only our senior year to try and get there again, and to try my hardest to achieve something great,” junior Ava Schemper said.

 “I am the last grandchild on my dad’s side and was hoping my grandma would be able to watch my walk at graduation,” senior Kylie Saville said. 

 “We aren’t having all of the class time we need to completely understand our lessons. It will make it harder to take future tests if we don’t have a good foundation to start with,” sophomore Corinne Cole said. 

“I’m not upset about the dance part of prom, but I am sad about post prom. A lot of hard work gets put into it and this year PHS won’t get to enjoy the fruits of that labor,” junior Nick Schemper said. 

 “It makes me feel really bad for the seniors. They have worked so long and they all deserve a graduation for their successes in high school,” sophomore Jayden Minkler said. 

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