SMSD superintendent: School to start remote only, fall activities suspended

Posted at 4:35 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 00:21:06-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hours after receiving an update on the COVID-19 outbreak from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Mike Fulton announced that the district will start the school year with remote learning.

Fulton said the health department data left the district with no choice but to start the school year Sept. 8 without students in classrooms.

“Student, staff and community safety are our first and most important priority. These guidelines are set up to ensure the students, staff and community are safe and to reduce the transfer of COVID-19,” Fulton said.

Earlier Tuesday afternoon, JCDHE Director Dr. Sanmi Areola presented the county’s latest data, including an 11.4% positivity rate during the last 14 days and an increasing number of new cases, to the superintendents of all six districts in the county.

According to that data, the data places Johnson County in the red zone, according to gating criteria the health department established at the request of school leaders.

Fulton said his decision also means that fall sports will be postponed for all SMSD schools.

The last days for SMSD activities, which were allowed to begin practice on Monday, will be Friday, Fulton said.

"This is hard. Nobody likes this," Fulton said. "We recognize that having students involved in activities and athletics is really important. We want that to happen but we want to do it safely."

The district has reached out to Kansas State High School Activities Association for guidance on postponing fall sports to the spring if it’s not possible to resume later this fall.

“Please know that this is not the outcome that any of us hoped for, when we began planning for the opening of schools this past spring. We miss our students, and can’t wait to be back together with them,” Fulton said.

SMSD will continually evaluate its learning model as county data changes.

Fulton said if there is a positive change in the gating criteria, schools could move to a hybrid model with in-person learning twice a week.

“Beginning a future transition to in-person learning using the hybrid model gives our students and staff the best opportunity to learn how to manage learning in a safe manner,” Fulton said. “The ultimate goal is to eventually transition to full in-person learning for all students, as county health conditions allow.”

The Blue Valley School District Board of Education rejected the county's recommendation Tuesday evening.