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City updates, reinforces mask and social distancing guidelines with COVID-19

In a statement released late Thursday, the City of Derby announced and redefined policy recommendations with wearing masks and social distancing for city staff and the community.

Following much of Governor Kelly’s executive order that began on Friday and Sedgwick County’s agreement to not mandate but strongly recommend the governor’s guidelines, the city is asking residents to wear masks in most indoor public spaces and in outdoor areas where social distancing isn’t possible. 

City staff members who directly interact with residents are required to wear masks or ensure social distancing. Visitors to all city buildings are strongly encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or other face covering at least until you are confident that safe distancing can be ensured at all times while in the building.

People using city parks and outdoor public spaces are asked to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or other face covering whenever they are unable to maintain social distancing, with only infrequent or incidental moments of closer proximity.

At the Derby Senior Center, masks are required while in the building for staff and patrons, except during exercise classes, while using fitness equipment, in cases of medical necessity, and for lunch and other events that involve eating food or drinking. People will be asked to leave the senior center if they don’t comply with the requirements.

At Rock River Rapids, people are asked to wear a mask when not in the water. This includes entering and exiting the park and when they are unable to maintain at least six feet distance from other groups when not using the pool or water park attractions. All staff will be required to wear masks excluding lifeguards on watch, except upon reaching or leaving their post. Other exceptions include heat-related illnesses when wearing the mask and if it becomes a health risk.

If a situation happens in which a person becomes angry or acts out, security officers at Rock River Rapids or law enforcement could be called to assist staff or restore order. City officials stated that if noncompliance becomes a problem, reconsideration is an option.

The city is recommending that local businesses and organizations require employees to cover their mouth and nose when working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution. The city also suggests that individuals wear masks when walking through common areas and in any room or enclosed area where other people (except those who reside together) are present and unable to maintain social distancing. 

According to the release the city says Derby businesses and organizations should also require their customers, visitors, and members of the public to wear a mask or face covering when in their facility.

Many of these mask and social distancing policies have been in place at city-operated facilities since the openings in June. Other exceptions, many of which align with the governor’s most recent executive order, are taken into consideration with the city’s current policy and updates as well. For more information on City of Derby COVID-19 suggestions, policies and exceptions go to

Superintendent gives tentative school year plan update

Derby Public Schools Superintendent Heather Bohaty gave an update Tuesday on the plan for the 2020 school year, saying that tentatively the district plans to welcome back students on August 12 while also giving the details of three possible learning models.

The three learning models include in-person learning, online-only instruction, and hybrid learning, meaning a combination of in-person and online. The various options are similar to what other nearby school districts and districts nationwide have presented as options for the fall semester.

The district may move forward with more than one of these options, allowing families to pick a learning model that best fits their needs, but none of the district’s plans are set in stone yet.

The Kansas Department of Education will release its plan and guidelines for Kansas schools on July 16, and the district will modify its approach based on those KSDE guidelines. The district’s school year plan will be presented to the Derby school board in late July.

Bohaty wrote that currently the “hope is to be able to offer an in-person option of school this fall” and that students who attend in-person “will have additional COVID-19 safety measures in place.” 

In addition, the district may offer online-only instruction as a learning option “to families who elect to learn from home,” Bohaty wrote. That option would include instruction by a district teacher that mirrors the district’s curriculum and a mix of online activities, lessons and assessments. Bohaty wrote that online instruction will become available to students attending in-person if there comes a time when schools have to shut down again because of COVID-19.

Lastly, a hybrid learning option — meaning a combination of in-person and online instruction — would potentially be utilized for families that choose in-person instruction if the district has to limit the number of students in the building at a time. The hybrid structure would include in-person instruction and online live instruction and assignments.

Families will receive a survey this month asking them about any preferences they have for the various learning model options. 

A back to school timeline was included in the statement. Here are some of the key dates.

  • July 9: Enrollment Update in mailboxes (approximate date)

  • July 14-15: State Board of Education to receive KSDE guidance for schools

  • July 16: Kansas State Department of Education releases plan; district leadership will receive detailed training on the recommendations

  • July 16-24: Derby Public Schools will modify plans to align with KSDE guidance

  • July 27: Present school year plans to the Board of Education

  • Aug. 12: First day of school

This story will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.

Atkinson pursues passion in The Kitchen

Derby’s Nicole Atkinson has had culinary aspirations from a young age. While she remembers being nervous to tell her best friend in first grade about those dreams, the professed Food Network fan quickly got over that and has jumped into her professional cooking career feet first.

A 2016 Derby High School graduate, Atkinson initially went to Emporia State University before transferring to Butler County Community College to pursue her culinary arts degree (which she received in May).

While at Butler County, Atkinson worked as a nighttime kitchen manager at Prost before taking a job as assistant pastry chef at George’s French Bistro in October. She also worked at Derby Donut previously. Beyond that, though, Atkinson also hopes to get into education – which led her to join the Hubbard Arts Center as a part-time instructor with The Kitchen this summer, the perfect opportunity.

“I was looking at jobs with the DRC for more experience with kids,” Atkinson said. “This is my first experience teaching. I’ve worked in kitchens and stuff and I’m in the kitchen now, but this is my first time teaching. I’m going to WSU in the fall for secondary education so I can teach either middle school or high school culinary arts when I graduate.”

Professionally, Atkinson said she wanted to seek out a job where she was constantly learning and growing – which is why she wants to teach culinary arts.

“Not even just teaching, but in cooking you’re always learning there’s so many new different trends in food and different ways and you can always improve your technique,” Atkinson said.

Still new to her career as a chef, Atkinson knows she has room to grow in that realm – admitting her knife skills are something in particular she wants to hone.

Teaching courses on ice cream, breakfast dishes, sushi and more (mainly with teenagers), Atkinson hopes to pass on those ideas of growth and learning through cooking.

“Anyone can follow a recipe, but I wanted to be able to teach them different techniques that they can go out, learn and use those techniques for other recipes,” Atkinson said.

Creativity is another part of what hooked Atkinson into a culinary career – as she loves experimenting, trying new things and sharing them with others in particular. Atkinson started out helping her mom in the kitchen and now she is trying to get her 15-year-old sister involved as well.

With her sister, and the kids she teaches in the majority of her Kitchen classes, Atkinson is aware there are some hurdles to overcome. Personally, Atkinson noted she is hypercritical of her own skills as a chef (considering herself a beginner). For the kids she teaches, those hang-ups may range from fear of knives to oil splattering to trying new foods.

Trying new foods is something Atkinson particularly enjoys, though. Working in the kitchen, she has found that quite often one simple ingredient can elevate a dish and that experimenting is half the fun. That’s what led Atkinson (a self-professed baker) to start making macarons – something she admitted she hopes to do in a future class.

Her work with macarons led Atkinson to start her own business, Partridge Lane Bakery, last year – selling her creations at the Derby Farmers Market.

For now, Atkinson’s schedule will only allow her to take on custom bakery orders, as she has to balance her duties as assistant pastry chef at George’s French Bistro (which also makes the desserts for Chester’s Chophouse in Wichita). She is grateful that her schedule at the restaurant – working 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. – allows her to be a part-time instructor at The Kitchen for the summer afternoon sessions with older kids.

Already, Atkinson has shared one of her favorite dishes (shrimp and grits) with her students. Looking to bring in more courses on some of her favorite foods, that passion is something Atkinson also hopes to pass on to her students.

“I think everyone should learn how to cook. I am a sole believer that food doesn’t just feed your stomach and your body, it definitely feeds your soul,” Atkinson said. “Whether it’s a quesadilla or a gourmet, five-course meal, at the end of the day it is that sustenance, but the process of cooking I think is really rejuvenating and I think [everyone] should just learn how to cook. I think that’s very valuable that it’s not just a one-time experience. You’re learning new skills; you have that knowledge and you can use it for the rest of your life.”