Lee's Summit parents, students protest for in-person learning to start school year

Posted at 10:30 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-20 00:42:41-04

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — Dozens of parents and students in the Lee’s Summit School District (LSR7) rallied at the district’s main facility Wednesday night, asking for students to be allowed back in the classroom this fall.

"All we are trying to do is get our kids in school. We are not bad people, we are just parents,” said Dana White, a parent and one of the organizers of the newly-formed group Open Our Jackson County Schools.

Open Our Jackson County Schools is a parent- and student-led group which does not want virtual learning at the start of the fall semester.

"I would like to go to in-person school. Obviously, I would like to have everybody be safe and comfortable, but for me and my perspective, I really just love school and I did not like online school as much as I wish I would have,” said incoming fifth-grader Jillian White.

Dana Scheidt is another parent involved with Open Our Jackson County Schools.

"All we're asking for is the choice, the choice to decide what is safe for our child and what's not," Scheidt said.

The district pushed back its start date to have a better shot of coming back to the classroom.

For that to happen, there has to be a decrease in a community spread by Aug. 25, when LSR7 leaders will consult with the Jackson County Health Department to decide what students' first day of school will look like on Sept. 8.

“What I say to that is if you're sick stay home, you know all the normal things,” Scheidt said.

The health department will look at four key areas Superintendent David Buck said will signal if Lee's Summit is still at significant community spread:

  • The positivity rate on a 14-day average;
  • the number of cases per day, per capita;
  • the number of cases per teenager, per capita;
  • and, the number of teens getting COVID-19, identified through contact tracing.

Similar decisions are being debated across the state with many districts consulting local health officials.

"We have some really serious educational challenges in this country that are going to be incredibly difficult to get over so it's all — there's risk and benefits on everything,” said Dr. Steve Lauer, pediatrician and vice-chair of pediatrics at the University of Kansas Health System.

Lee's Summit Katie Mead said she’s concerned about COVID-19, too, but more concerned about her future.

"I'm going through the hardest year of my life with college decisions and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life," Mead said. "That itself is really scary, and trying to do that alone right now is terrifying."

She said many of her peers share similar sentiments.

"I understand the safety is a problem, but I think most of the kids in Lee's Summit we want to go back. Everybody I've talked to wants to go back and I think that's a risk we are all willing to take,” Mead said.

41 Action News reached out to LSR7 for comment in regards to Wednesday night’s protest and was given this statement;

“Since we released our plans on July 17, we have shared with our families that we will be learning in one of three ways — full-time, hybrid or virtually — based on Jackson County Health Department guidance. While we are eager and ready to serve our students in our buildings again, the Health Department has recommended we begin classes virtually if community spread doesn't improve.We want to be at school in-person. We are also committed to our duty to keep our students and staff safe and healthy to our greatest ability.We've shared with our families that we intend to implement the Health Department's recommendation if improvement doesn't occur by Aug. 25, and we are eager and ready to provide in-person education as soon as our public health experts say it is safe to do so."
Lee's Summit R-7 School District

In an August 7 interview with 41 Action News, Buck said, “with in-person, knowing it’s the best model, when Jackson County Health Department says it’s OK, we are going to look at what lead time we need to get back and if that is just two-three days… then we will do that.”