In-person classes delayed another month for Gardner-Edgerton as JoCo remains in ‘red zone’

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OLATHE, Kan. — It wasn’t the news that many Gardner-Edgerton families were hoping for.

Parents got a message from the district starting with the words: “As you may be aware…”

Administrators went on to say that despite what some nearby districts are doing, older Gardner-Edgerton students won’t be returning to their classrooms just yet. In fact, students won’t be back in the classroom until Oct. 30 at the earliest, the district said.

It was disappointing news for many USD 231 students like freshman Collin Webb and sophomore Christopher Webb.

On Thursday afternoon, the brothers picked up materials from the high school. The worksheets and books were packaged in Cosentino’s grocery sacks.

“We just came up here because his teacher told him we needed stuff,” Christopher said. “But then we came back with three extra bags for three extra people.”

Their family has multiple students in the district and most of them need to attend classes virtually.

“We all sit at the kitchen table and do our Zooms. So if two of us have to talk at the same time it’s kind of awkward because then we think we’re talking to each other,” Christopher said.

“We just have to sit at home all day. One spot. Kind of boring,” Collin added.

“The reason we came up here so early is because our internet went down so we couldn’t go into class which really sucks because now we don’t know what to do with the rest of the day,” Christopher concluded.

The internet outage affected about one-third of the Gardner-Edgerton student population on Thursday, according to messages from parents in the district who were personally dealing with the issue.

The problem came on the same day that parents learned about the virtual learning extension.

Gardner-Edgerton made the decision after Johnson County Department of Health officials met with local superintendents. They pointed to statistics that Johnson County is still in the “red zone” for COVID-19, based on the county’s gating criteria.

“Please know this decision was not made lightly,” USD 231 wrote to parents. “Although not ideal, we have observed — and students and staff have reported — that positive interactions and learning experiences are taking place on a daily basis.”

The Webb brothers said they understand, but it doesn’t give them much solace.

“I personally do not feel that we’re going back. I think we’ll just keep extending it,” Collin said.

“I’m just really bummed out that I won’t be able to meet my teachers and friends and all that,” Christopher said.

Blue Valley has decided to bring elementary students back full time next month, and middle and high school students back on a hybrid schedule. Shawnee Mission announced earlier this month it will bring elementary students back for hybrid learning in October, but older students will stay online.

Other Johnson County districts have not announced any changes to their learning mode plans.

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