Lee’s Summit votes not to send most students back to class full-time until pandemic ends

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Lee’s Summit School Board members listened to nearly four hours worth of presentations of what a return to in-school learning could like this fall Thursday night.

Then they approved a plan that won’t send most students back to class until the coronavirus pandemic is declared over.

Based on the unanimous vote, if school started today, all learning would be virtual. Board members also voted to push the year’s start back until Sept. 8.

If and when students go back to school, Kindergartners through 3rd-graders would go first. 

School board members said they’ve received hundreds of emails from teachers worried about their safety as well as students. 

“Overwhelmingly, when you read through those, you see that anxiety and stress. I think it’s the same as our parents feel, too. It’s the unknowns, the little bitty things like who cleans the desks?” School Board Vice President Kim Fritchie said.

“The belief will be more along the line of the student wiping down the desk they were at because they were the one that just used that,” Dr. Don Andrews, assistant superintendent of secondary education, explained.

He hoped to ease teacher’s fears they’d be responsible for disinfecting in between classes, under what constitutes stage three or four of the plan.

Lee’s Summit will no longer temperature check students based on new guidance about its effectiveness. 

There were also questions about what happens to the rest of a class if a student or teacher tests positive. Teri Hansen, RN coordinator for the district, said those decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with the health department.

“We are just really going to have to get out there: Please don’t come to school or work if you answer yes to any of these screening protocols,” Hansen said.

Though elementary schools teach students through 6th grade, the district says the dividing line for COVID-19 transmission is between 3rd and 4th graders.

“It’s not that we are worried about our kids getting super sick. Again (kids) 10-19 are super transmitters. They can give it to an adult as well as an adult can give it to an adult … so if our teen rate goes up, that’s going to be more adults getting sick,” LSR-7 Superintendent  Dr. David Buck said.

That’s why there will have to be more significant strides in curbing COVID-19 for older students to go back to school. A hybrid model of two-day a week in-person learning and reduced capacity would come first. 

The district said they’ll decide by Aug. 25 where exactly the community is on the four-tiered COVID-19 spectrum after discussions with the health department to see exactly who could be in school Sept. 8.

Aug. 7-10 students and parents can change their plans for going fully virtual for the year, no matter what phase the school district is in its plans. Last month, 21 percent of families chose that option.

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