KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Public Schools have been advised not to offer in-person classes in the fall.
"We are all in uncharted territory right now," said Dr. Mark Bedell, Kansas City Public Schools superintendent. "We are all trying to make the right decisions in the interest in the students that we serve, the facility and staff we serve and this community."
So, they are back to the drawing board when figuring out what is best for students, staff and faculty.
"We worked hard to put out our plans in place to release today (Monday), which was going to be to share with our parents the various options that were available as we move towards August 24th," Bedell said. "After receiving some new data from the health department on Friday, that prompted us to have to make some pivots."
The Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department said that in-person school was not advised in the city, prompting KCPS to change the plans they expected to release.
Bedell sent a letter to parents Monday morning that explained the change.
"We want to make sure when we put out information, it's information that can allow our families to make an informed decision," he said. "I think our families, most people in this community understand that the data is changing rapidly."
The KC Teachers Union sees the move as a positive.
"I am really glad," Andrea Flinders, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers, said. "I was on that meeting with the health department when they recommended not opening schools."
Teachers in the district have an idea of what should happen for the school year.
"They hope that they start virtual," Flinders said. "I think that would be their preference. I think they are open to a slow reopening of schools, especially if the virus continues to be at such a high level in Kansas City."
Tino Herrera, a KCPS parent, said she understands that the decisions districts must make are "tough."
"I completely emphasize with that," Herrera said. "I understand that. You want to be smart with this, you want to be able to collaborate, you want to be able to get wisdom with all of this. So yes I understand this takes time and it's a process. However, I know there needs to be a decision."
As for the future of Kansas City schools, the district wants everyone to know safety comes first.
"Ultimately, that is the goal to do everything in our power, to work with the health department, work with our mayor's office and work with this community to do everything that we need to do to prevent anymore spread," Bedell said.
He also said the district will begin readjusting the plans over the next week, but new plans will not include an in-person option.
The full letter to parents can be found below.
Dear KCPS Family,
We know that this communication has been much anticipated. As a staff, we have spent many sleepless nights and busy days creating plans and protocols to ensure, to the best of our ability, a safe and welcoming environment for our students and staff as we return to school this fall. Our planning priorities have included health, safety and student learning.
We have been in ongoing communication with health officials and have received guidance from multiple health agencies. While we are still in the midst of a pandemic, we are using the best advice and guidance available so that we can offer the best learning environment for our students in a safe and responsible manner.
We had been preparing to release our reopening plans with you today. However, the Kansas City Health Department issued new and updated guidance stating that in-person school was not advised in Kansas City. This update is prompting us to change direction.
The numbers of positive COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in our region. Given this fact, we need to adjust our reopening plans. We had intended to offer in-person learning options, but those are no longer advised at the moment. Instead, we will pivot and adjust our reopening plans throughout the next week in collaboration with the health department, our staff, our Board of Directors and local officials. We are committed to keeping you updated along the way. As always, our goal is to protect the health of our community while continuing to provide a great public education for our children.
While we adjust and continue planning, please know that we have several FAQ documents, health plans, nutrition plans and instructional plans ready for you. We are simply adjusting these according to the updated guidance from the Kansas City Health Department.
We look forward to serving our families and the Kansas City community this school year. We know it will still look different in some ways, but we are committed to growing our students and upholding the responsibility to educate effectively while helping our students thrive. Thank you for your grace, your flexibility and your mindset of leading with the best intentions for all.
Yours in Education,Dr. Mark T. Bedell, Superintendent