KCPS leaders scrambling after health department raises concerns about in-person classes

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Public Schools is now reconsidering if schools will reopen this fall

The superintendent said it’s a necessary pause amid the rapid rise of COVID-19 cases and the health department’s concerns about holding in-person classes.

While most school buildings are idle, Kansas City administrators are scrambling. Local health department warnings could keep kids out of the classroom indefinitely.

“It’s like a nightmare that won’t go away. It’s that serious,” said Dr. Mark Bedell, Kansas City Public Schools superintendent.

Bedell sent this letter to KCPS families Monday, acknowledging that in-person education is the ideal setting for kids to learn and grow.

But with rapidly rising coronavirus cases, he wrote, “We need to adjust our reopening plans,” and in-person learning options are “no longer advised.” 

There’s added concern because the district has a high percentage of minority students and staff, which have been shown to be more susceptible to COVID-19.

“We also understand that we have a service we have to provide. We all get paid to educate students, and that’s our responsibility,” Bedell said.

“But I’ve constantly told people that if you don’t have a healthy workforce, you can’t deliver on educating kids, and if you have sick students running around, they’re not going to be in school anyhow.”

KCPS knows some families will be unhappy if school resumes face-to-face or if it’s fully virtual.  

Cecil Logan is worried for two of his sons with asthma and thankful for the option to do online learning this year.

“That decision, when I saw it this morning, I just shouted hallelujah because no child anywhere in America should be in school this fall,” the local pastor said.

KCPS is also working with youth organizations and identifying community spaces that could serve as smaller classroom settings for working families who need a safe, supervised setting for kids to learn.

Crystal Turner is hoping to be a small part of the solution.

“Just to see there’s still rising cases of COVID and still considering us going back to school is definitely scary,” Turner said.

Turner is a certified teacher and started a summer learning program to help friends who had nowhere else to go. She’s planning to offer a home-school option at her new learning center this fall.

“Just because we are in such a trying and questionable time, it’s like, if not me, then who?” Turner said. “You have to be the change you want to see, and that’s something I’m very big on.”

The KCPS Board of Education meets Wednesday, and Bedell said he expects firm plans for fall to be sent to families after that. It’s possible the school start date could be delayed in those considerations.

Several other districts that have buildings within Kansas City limits, including Raytown, North Kansas City and Center, are now taking a fresh look at their reopening plans. 

Hickman Mills told FOX4 it has already communicated with parents and staff that it will likely start the year with virtual distance learning.

Meanwhile, Kansas City Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer and Mayor Quinton Lucas are expected to meet Tuesday to review the latest case numbers. They might issue a statement about the return to school following that.

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