KANSAS CITY, Mo. — School districts across the country are putting together their reopening plans.
In-person or online? It's the question many school leaders are working to answer right now.
And for some districts, those plans are fairly fluid, as district leaders monitor the severity of COVID-19 cases across the metro.
For Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, the first all-girls charter school opened its doors just last Fall, then the pandemic hit.
"It's been definitely a roller coaster ride, I'll tell you that," Dean of Culture, Destiny Flournoy said. "Opening a school and then a pandemic hitting is like testing on Loomis but I think we withstood the kind of like the test of times."
While the building sits quiet, school leaders are preparing for its second year of operation a little differently.
"We are truly re-imagining learning," principal Tara Haskins said.
Instead of in-person teaching, it will be 100 percent virtual with students' days starting with PRIDE, similar to an advisory class.
"Kids actually have one mentor and every single morning they have a check-in with that mentor," Flournoy said. "Most mornings, mentors will have a lesson that's specific to help them with skills they need."
While school won't be in session physically, school leaders are connecting with students and staff members virtually, giving them a space to express how they feel during this time.
"We're showing our girls that their feelings are valid, how they are feeling's perfectly valid. And let's make space to connect about it and share your story and share how you're feeling and why," Haskins said. "We are very honored to have a phenomenal licensed clinical social worker who's given us guidance to design lessons for our scholars within that morning PRIDE in every one of their first lessons is not only what is COVID-19, how are you feeling about it?"
Once cases decrease, the school will go to a 100 percent in-person model. But for now, as cases continue to rise, that will take time.
"We knew that if we brought our girls in-person with the rise of COVID-19 cases, not only in Kansas City but in the areas that our girls live in....we could not responsibly bring them in safely to school in person," Haskins said.
The school sits on the East side of the city, in the 3rd District, which shows the highest number of COVID-19 cases out of all six districts in Kansas City, Missouri.
The CDC's latest update states "age-adjusted hospitalization rates are highest among non-Hispanic, American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic black persons, followed by Hispanic or Latino persons."
According to The COVID Tracking Project, in the state of Missouri, Black people make up 12 percent of the population, however, they make up 29 percent of positive COVID-19 cases and 35 percent of deaths in the state.
"That number alone is upsetting and disheartening," Haskins said. "It's impacting my children, it's impacting my families. We made a commitment to support them."
As students navigate online learning, how they're taught may be different but the curriculum is still the same.
School leaders say it's key to have support for the young girls.
"Whether that be the COVID pandemic or what I would like to call the racial pandemic as well," Flournoy said. "Because we need to make sure our girls are prepared to respond and figure out how they navigate both for themselves."
After the murder of George Floyd, Flournoy said there was an initial meeting with the teachers to share a space a spark conversation.
"It really stamped the purpose of our school and why we're here," Flournoy said. "It really made us realize that we really have to be very strategic about how we help these girls develop their own voice so they can figure out what imprint they can leave to change the world."
Haskins said student scholars will pair with a teacher and do weekly check-ins.
"Each teacher had 10 kids max. And so that week we first made sure we met as a team, and we discussed it, not just George Floyd, but Breonna Taylor," Haskins said. "We were very specific and we not only said her name but we named them, and reminded our team these are just the names that we know. There are more whose names don't make the news. There are more families who are hurting, but yet to get justice for the death and murder of their family members. And as a team, we processed it through."
And while this wasn't quite the outlook they had in mind for their first year of operations, Haskins summed up the first year as "life-changing."
"They are going to, I've watched them grow into the most incredible young women," Haskins said. "And I'm honored that, I'm honored that families chose us as a place to continue to nurture their child's voice, and I'm honored that a community has welcomed us and that they continue to trust us and give us grace."
For a look at FAQs of Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy, visit their website.