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Monday was Unified School District 475’s first day back in class after two weeks of winter break.

Students across the district were able to return to their brick and mortar schools for in-person learning. This includes Junction City High School, which went fully remote late last semester, after Thanksgiving break when the district was forced by COVID-19-related staffing shortages across Geary and Riley Counties to move all classes online.

At that time, about 10 percent of JCHS staff was in quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19. according to USD 475 Marketing and Media Relations Coordinator.

Now, however, the district has moved students back to in-person classes.

Students have returned to class with the same safety measures in place as have been in place since the start of the school year, with one change. The district will no longer be taking temperatures of students upon entering the building each morning. State and local health officials have determined temperature-taking to be ineffective when students have been out in cold weather for an extended period of time. The thermometers can produce false readings, showing temperatures much lower than they actually are. School staff will continue screening students who present signs of illness. Parents of USD 475 students are encouraged to check temperatures prior to sending students to school every morning.

There have been some challenges during this first week back from winter break in some of the USD 475 buildings. The district’s busing partners have seen a high number of staff out due to quarantine and isolation, which has caused some bus routes to experience delays. The furnace at the H.D. Karns building is undergoing repairs, which has caused students in the Innovations and Magnet programs to need to engage in remote learning for a couple days while the repairs take place. While there have been challenges, most of the district's students have returned to the classroom.

The return to school after winter break would normally signal the start of the second semester. However, the district delayed the start of the school year by two weeks in August to allow for additional time to implement safety measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 within schools. This means that the first semester will end Jan. 22, and the second semester will begin Jan. 25. This is the last semester students will spend at the current JCHS campus.

Students will not have school Jan. 18 in honor of the Martin Luther King Day holiday. Students will also not have school Jan. 22, as it is a teacher work day. Teachers will use the opportunity to compile grades and close out the first semester.

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