KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Students in the Blue Springs School District can return to in-person classes for the fall semester, but families also will have the option to opt out and enroll their children in BSSD Distance Learning instead.
Parents will have to choose the in-person or distance-learning option by Friday, July 17, for the first semester from August through December, according to an email from the district Tuesday night.
Those who choose in-person classes can elect to move their children to the virtual option at any time, but parents who choose the virtual option will not be allowed to switch to in-person classes until Jan. 6, 2021, at the earliest.
Depending on the response from parents, Blue Springs might also have to alter its class schedule and stagger the number of children in the building to accommodate social-distancing requirements.
“Please keep in mind that mandated social distancing restrictions may not allow for our district to host school Monday-Friday for every student,” the district said in an email. “Our buildings were not designed to hold 20-30 students in a classroom seated six feet apart. If social distancing is mandated and over 70% of our student population opts to return to In-Person School, we will be forced to look at alternate plans that allow for fewer students in the building each day.”
The district — which has school buildings in Blue Springs, Independence, Lake Tapawingo and Lee’s Summit — will rely on health and safety guidance primarily from the Jackson County Health Department, as well as any city and state orders.
“The requirements and restrictions of In-Person School will be fluid based on city, county and state regulations,” the district said.
For instance, Jackson County currently has a mask mandate, which Blue Springs schools would follow if it remained in place when the 2020-21 academic year begins on Aug. 24.
However, if there are no restrictions in place when school begins, the district will follow several precautions for in-person classes:
- Hand-washing and hygiene will be enforced.
- Hand sanitizer will be available and its use encouraged.
- Daily wellness checks based on self-reporting and teacher observation.
- Unless mandated by the city, county or state, face masks will be optional in classrooms when socially distanced, but required when moving through the school during arrival, dismissal, between classes, on bathroom breaks or at other times in the hallway.
- Large gatherings (i.e. assemblies, walkathons, grandparents/special persons day, etc.) will be canceled.
- No visitors or lunch guests will be allowed.
- Recess will take place for elementary students, but playground equipment might be off limits.
- Masks will be required on school buses.
Students who choose distance learning will remain eligible for extracurricular activities, subject to Missouri State High School Activities Association guidelines.
The district will issue a device to all students in fourth through 12th grades who enroll in the distance learning option and any other students who need them.
Students will be grouped in “classes” with a certified teacher for distance learning, but will not have teacher-led instruction all day.
Preschool and kindergarten students will have a daily 45-minute session with the teacher. Other elementary school students will receive an hour, while middle school students will have two hours of daily “classroom time” with teachers and high school students will have three hours. Exact amounts of time are subject to change.
Students will be responsible for completing daily assignments and coursework independent of that limited live instruction.
There also might be one-on-one meetings and prerecorded lessons in some instances, along with virtual parent interaction with teachers.
The distance learning option promises to be enhanced from the spring semester, when COVID-19 shutdowns forced Blue Springs and other districts to scramble.
“We learned a tremendous amount about distance learning during the spring shutdown,” the district said. “Since that time, our Curriculum and Instruction Department have been taking parent and student feedback to heart and modifying the coursework and expectations of BSSD Distance Learning. Over the summer, district teachers have been rewriting education as we know it and developing top-notch and achievable distance learning curriculum for our students Pre-K-12 moving forward.”
Distance learning students will receive traditional grades that will be reflected on their grade-point average for middle and high school students.
“No matter the educational option you choose for the coming year, please remember that you and your student(s) are now, and will continue to be, an important part of our BSSD family,” the district said. “We will get through this together.”