Kansas City Public Schools starting after Labor Day, online only indefinitely

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Public Schools are joining three major districts in Johnson County, Kansas, in delaying the start of classes til after Labor Day.

And students will only attend online to start the year.

The KCPS plan is one of the more strict return to school plans in the metro. Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell said even one death of a student or staff member would be unacceptable. So district leaders, working closely with the health department, will be extremely cautious on when in-person classes resume.

KCPS’ board of directors unanimously approved a delayed start to the school year Friday. School will begin September 8th and end June 10th. The goal is to give teachers and families more time to learn the ins and outs of the new virtual learning program.

“Training them on the devices, on the different technology apps we are going to use and giving them some good advice around good things for kids in a virtual/distance learning environment,” said Marla Sheppard, KCPS deputy superintendent.

Forest Tyson has several grandchildren in the district. He’s thrilled with the delayed start and online learning plans.

“I’m not going to put my kids and grandkids at risk not even just the fact they could die from the disease but infecting somebody else,” Tyson said.

Bedell said he has received a lot of praise for the district’s cautious and detailed planning. Not only will students start with online learning, but the district will work closely with the health department to monitor COVID-19 case numbers.

“I think, for us, we have to focus on what our data is telling us and when the data tells us we are in a scenario where we can move to operate schools in a safe manner in person, the district will be ready to move with that, and that’s just how we’re going to operate,” Bedell said.

In-person classes will not resume until case counts drop consistently for two weeks, and then, kids will be brought back in phases with some students attending on alternate days, with the goal of eventually having all kids in a face-to-face classroom.

“What I hope this will demonstrate to people that continue to doubt this school district’s ability to put out polished products, is that this district has been moving on this continuum for years and we have to get off this perception that we don’t have people here that don’t know how to think or have the ability to put out great products,” said Dr. Bedell.

KCPS plans to organize several “parent university” sessions for families in mid-August to deploy new devices including laptops, tablets and Wi-FI hotspots, with socially distant training classes at individual schools for families to learn how everything will work.

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