KC-area leaders discuss evolution of education amid COVID-19

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Posted at 8:24 PM, Jun 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-23 21:24:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some school districts in the Kansas City area plan to open in less than two months – And most want to resume in-person classes after shutting down in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what are the questions these districts wrestling with ahead of possibly returning to the classroom? How much different will it look for students, faculty and staff? What will districts do if someone in the building tests positive for the virus?

Four local leaders in the field of education — Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell, Kansas City Federation of Teachers President Andrea Flinders, incoming Blue Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Tonya Merrigan and Shawnee Mission School District Director of Health Services Shelby Rebeck — joined 41 Action News Anchor Kevin Holmes for a town hall discussion on the future of elementary and secondary education amid the ongoing pandemic.

“We don’t know what it’s going to look like ... but we’ll be ready to educate our children,” Flinders said.

Some of the questions begin before students even get to school.

Trying to maintain social distancing on the school bus presents myriad problems, especially for students with health challenges.

Districts are likely to ask parents who are able to drop off students on a daily basis to do so, which is just one of many changes students and parents can expect ahead of the 2020-21 school year.

Will students be required to wear masks?

Will there be recess?

How are districts preparing for a possible shutdown again?

What plans are in place for students or teachers and staff with health challenges, who might not feel comfortable returning to an in-person setting?

Will there be athletics, clubs and other activities? What about choir?

All are good questions and all are addressed during our hour-long conversation.

“It’s tough, because we’re having to redesign how we do everything as we look toward Aug. 24,” Bedell said.

Districts were forced to pivot on the fly in March, but they believe some lessons learned during that “continuous learning” environment will serve them well as plans are laid for more robust “virtual learning” opportunities. But patience will remain a requirement.

“The same level of support is going to be needed this fall,” Merrigan said, “but I have no doubt that we will be ready.”