SMSD affirms decision to start school remotely, despite protests

SMSD Protest.jpeg
Posted at 8:32 PM, Aug 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 07:14:17-04

SHAWNEE MISSION, Kan. — The Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education reaffirmed its decision Monday night to start school online and temporarily cancel fall sports – despite hundreds of students and parents protesting.

“We want to get to a place where we can bring our students back to school and get back to normal activity,” Superintendent Mike Fulton said. “How we get there is the challenge.”

Last week, the district announced it would begin school totally remotely. That almost matches with Johnson County's gating criteria. Currently, positivity rates put the county in the "Red Zone."

The county’s recommendation for the red zone is in-person learning for elementary students and distance learning for all other students.

“I think in any other circumstance, I might have children’s division at my door for leaving my kids home,” said parent Tiffany Johnson, “but now we’re basically being told that is what we have to do.”

Johnson is an intensive care unit nurse and has three children in the school district. She joined the hundreds outside the school board meeting Monday to protest the district’s decision.

“I don’t know when I’m going to get my shifts in. I don’t know who is going to watch my kids,” she said. “There’s no way health care workers can both take care of people and make sure their kids are getting educated. There’s no way.”

Shawnee Mission Northwest Senior Justin Mitchell also opposed the district’s decision.

“Football is what I’ve done my whole life, and that’s how I want to go to college. That’s how I plan to pay for college,” he said, noting that will be difficult with a cancelled season.

Earlier in the afternoon, the district held a listening session at Shawnee Mission West High School. Jae Moyer, whose great aunt died from COVID-19, was among the many who spoke.

“This virus is killing people,” he said. “This virus is taking people’s lives. It’s taking my family member’s lives. I don’t even have to be a student or a teacher to worry about that. I can be worried about these giant monoliths of COVID spread right here in our communities.”

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