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Kansas City-area schools ready to welcome students after holiday break amid COVID-19 surge

Posted at 8:03 PM, Jan 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-04 23:11:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases in the Kansas City area, school districts are confident they're prepared as best as they can be to navigate this upcoming semester

"We all have to do what we think is best for our children," David Smith, a spokesperson for the Shawnee Mission School District said.

Leaders at Shawnee Mission School District are ready to welcome students Wednesday during the latest COVID-19 wave, as some staff have ongoing concerns.

"What we've said is, that we will do everything in our power to put in place mitigating procedures," Smith said.

On Monday night, SMSD's board of education approved a plan that lets middle and high school students choose whether to wear a mask.

Shawnee Mission joined several other districts in both Missouri and Kansas, who've made mask wearing optional.

But on Tuesday, doctors said with so many kids still unvaccinated, it's not the best idea.

"If you have too many kids out of the classroom, if you have too many teachers who can't teach, to instrument, not enough administrators, you can't run the program," Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at the University of Kansas Health System, said. "You're going to struggle and by the way, you're going to have the same story about hospitals tomorrow. And we're masked and vaccinated."

Students at the Fort Osage School District also return to the classroom Wednesday.

A spokesperson told KSHB 41 News on Tuesday, their focus continues to be making sure their classrooms are appropriately staffed. They're still in need of bus drivers and substitute teachers.

In Liberty, where classes resume on Thursday, discussions are taking place in the event staffing shortages would emerge.

A representative adds they're prepared to shift to virtual learning if need be.

But in Kansas, school districts can't offer remote learning to students for more than 40 hours.

"As always, we are continuing to monitor staffing levels closely to ensure we have the capacity to support a successful first day back to school," Becky Grubaugh, a spokesperson for Olathe Public Schools said. "While we are a 1:1 technology district, due to a restriction on the number of remote learning hours permitted by the Kansas State Department of Education, the district does not anticipate offering a remote learning day."

Smith said the district would continue to monitor the COVID-19 case levels in the district and make changes if necessary.

"It is possible that a building could close," he said. "Our challenge is that we would have to, we would probably have to make that time up. Because we only have a certain number of minutes allotted per building. And if we go below that, then we'd have to make the time up."

In Johnson County, students in elementary schools still have to mask up due to a mandate that's up for discussion by county commissioners on Thursday morning.