Fort Riley schools recognized as only Continental U.S. Army installation to hold in-person classes all year

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FORT RILEY, Kan. — During U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command-Readiness Director Brenda Lee McCullough’s recent visit to Fort Riley, she declared Geary County Schools USD 475’s schools on post to be the only Army installation within the Continental U.S. in her profile to hold in-person classes for their students throughout the entire school year. This is among 20 active- and reserve-component Army installations across the 13 states.

Since August, Geary County Schools USD 475 has held in-person, brick-and-mortar classes for all 17 schools within the district, including five on Fort Riley.

“The Geary County Schools’ commitment to keeping on-post schools safely open throughout this academic year was a force multiplier for the soldiers and families of Fort Riley, enabling readiness,” said Col. William McKannay, Fort Riley Garrison Commander. “Development and refinement of secure COVID-19 mitigation protocols contributed to wellness, particularly physical, mental, and social, of Fort Riley families. USD 475 is a strategic partner with Fort Riley and contributes greatly to making Fort Riley a great place to live, train, deploy from, come home to and retire.”

The district focused on learning and school safety operations from the very beginning, creating a 2020-2021 Way Forward Guide that covered all the plans, changes, adjustments, safety measures, and protocols applied to keep the students within their physical classrooms.

“I feel very proud that USD 475 has been fully open since day one. Having students learning in the building, along with their peers, has allowed for some normalcy during the pandemic,” said Kenneth Upham, principal of Fort Riley Elementary School. “The staff have done an amazing job following our safety protocols this year, which has allowed us to keep our schools open all year. I can’t thank them enough for their hard work and dedication to our students and families.”

Upon reentering the classrooms in the summer of 2020, the school district worked heavily in creating plans that focused on optimizing the educational benefits of the students, while promoting health, safety, and emotional wellbeing.

“I’ve been very impressed by the efforts of all district staff who chose to face this unprecedented time with optimism, determination, and flexibility. Their outlook set the tone for the year and created an environment in which students felt safe,” said Rachael Garcia, Geary County Schools staff member and parent. “I’m so very appreciative of the sacrifices that each staff member made that allowed our students the opportunity to receive face-to-face instruction this school year.”

The safety protocols taken throughout the school year included mandating masks, social distancing, and quarantine protocols.

“We owe it to the diligence of our staff and parents to keep everyone safe and informed,” said Shannon Molt, principal of Fort Riley Middle School. “Having our schools remain open has allowed us to continue building positive relationships with our students and provide them with the quality education they all deserve.”

Geary County Schools also held frequent cleanings as performed by cleaning service ABM Industries. The Board of Education approved an additional $160,014 during their April 4 meeting to enhance the levels of cleaning done within the schools through the rest of the school year to ensure a healthy and safe educational environment.

For inquiries, please contact Lindley Lund, Marketing and Media Specialist for Geary County Schools USD 475, at lindleylund@usd475.org.