Lee’s Summit school board to make final decision on how new school year will begin

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UPDATE: In a 5-2 vote, the Lee’s Summit school board voted Tuesday to send Pre-K through 3rd graders back to school, but grades 4-12 will remain virtual.

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — The controversy between in-person learning versus virtual learning heated up again Tuesday.

The Lee’s Summit school board, which initially announced school would start on a virtual learning platform Sept. 8, called a special meeting for Tuesday night to reconsider that decision.

Parents were anxious about the decision, including Dereik Domerese who has seven children in the Lee’s Summit School District.

He’s one of the creators of the Lee’s Summit Open Our Schools Initiative. The group has asked the school board to allow parents to decide what’s best for their children.

Five of Domerese’s children are on individualized education plans, and some of them also have 504 plans for the children’s behavioral needs. Overseeing that is something he said parents aren’t equipped to handle.

“That process would take hours and hours of my day and I still can’t do my job as effectively as someone who is trained in the grade for that job,” Domerese said.

Virtual learning at the end of the last school year not only had a negative affect on his children’s educational experience but created other problems.

“That comes out as that comes out as aggression, defiance. I’ve had one kid run away a couple of times,” Domerese said.

As a foster and adoptive parent, many of his children would not have been plucked out of bad situations if it weren’t for teachers who reported suspicions of abuse and neglect.

“He took it to one of the only comfortable people in his life besides his parents who are the perpetrators of the abuse and neglect,” Domerese said of one of his sons who had been going through a lot of stuff, as Domerese put it. “And that teacher did something about it and he ended up coming into care, potentially saving his life.”

Domerese, a clinical therapist who works with school-aged children, said hotline calls are down by 50%, not because abuse isn’t happening, but because it’s not being reported.

“So instead of catching it as a second set of eyes and being able to implement services to help that family grow, learn new skills, and cope, what’s happening is they’re not really catching it until that child ends up in the hospital.” Domerese said.

“There is a plethora of things that we can do to protect our kids and protect our community while also doing the right thing for her at risk kids in our community. Doing all virtual learning even for one semester, that’s not the right choice.

The Lee’s Summit School District would not comment as of this story’s publication, choosing to wait until after the school board announced its decision after the 6 p.m. meeting.

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