Local districts on both sides of state line weigh in on back to school plans

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RAYTOWN, Mo. — Local school districts are etching out plans for how they’ll welcome back students and teachers in just a few weeks.

Just like businesses in the community, schools will be adapting to new standards to enforce distancing, and they’re planning for what to do if students or staff get sick.

A big piece of these plans is offering flexibility so families will have the choice to do what is right for them to keep everyone safe.

RELATED: Blue Springs, Independence school districts giving students in-person or online choice

Students sitting close together and walking shoulder-to-shoulder through hallways will soon be a thing of the past as Kansas City area schools prepare for education during a pandemic.

Center School District 

“COVID-19 has really forced leaders and organizations and districts to really think differently about maintaining a safe and healthy environment and that is my focus,” said Dr. Yolanda Cargile, Center School District superintendent.

Cargile just officially started with Center Schools on July 1, but has been working with re-entry task force teams for weeks.

While final details are still being hammered out, the south Kansas City district knows it will offer families the option of both in-person and online classes and might have a hybrid of the two as well.

“We, in essence, know we won’t have a traditional start to the school year in August,” Cargile said. “So we’re really being flexible to implement and deliver a plan that implements the needs of our children, staff and the community.”

You can read more about plans for Center schools here

Raytown School District

In Raytown, schools are “confident” of returning Aug. 26, but things will look a lot different.

“We’ve got to basically reinvent school from beginning to end,” said Dr. Travis Hux, Raytown School District’s assistant superintendent of support services.

Social distancing practices will be at the core of how things run, beginning with start and dismissal times.

“We’ll be requiring buses to come at one time, parents to come at another when they’re car riding and walkers to come at another, versus everyone just converging when they get there,” Hux said.

Bus ridership will be limited to keep one student per bench seat. Students will need masks on board and in school halls. Plus, extra lunch and recess periods are being added to limit group sizes, with an effort on keeping the same groups of kids together during those group settings.

“Our goal is to keep those static groups together so that when they are playing, if something happens, we can trace it back and we don’t have to shut down the entire district if there’s an issue,” Hux said.

Plexiglass shields are up everywhere. The district’s got new cleaning equipment to quickly sanitize surfaces like playgrounds and has added new germ blasting technology for HVAC systems.

Raytown is also buying extra computers and WiFi hotspots to help low-income families attend school virtually if they choose.

“It’ll be live teaching. So if you’re home and supposed to be in Ms. Smith’s class 2nd hour, you will still be in that class, sitting in front of a computer,” Hux said. “There will be a camera in the classroom. She will have a microphone and will be able to interact with you.”

Schools are also creating contingency plans so that if local health departments enforce new restrictions, they can transition to a hybrid or full online learning model.

You can read more about precautions in Raytown schools here

The state of Kansas is expected to announce guidelines Friday for how schools can safely reopen this fall.

Many districts on the Kansas side of the metro are waiting for that official word before announcing their firm plans for reopening schools.

But Shawnee Mission and Lawrence school districts gave FOX4 a glimpse into how things might be shaped.

Lawrence School District 

“Together Again” is the hope and focus of Lawrence Public Schools, to welcome students and staff back in a few short weeks.

“For educators who are planners, there are pivots we naturally do at times, but these pivots have been very stressful,” said Dr. Anna Stubblefield, Lawrence Public Schools deputy superintendent.

“We know that we want to put safety of staff and students at the forefront and we also know how, if possible, important it is to have kids in class in the fall.” 

But with COVID-19 cases climbing, the district knows it needs to give families and teachers options to stay safe.

The district is considering offering face-to-face instruction, remote learning or a hybrid model of both online and in-person classes. Lawrence Schools already offer a full virtual school to students across Kansas, which could see an enrollment spike this fall.

“We are keenly aware that no matter what decision we make, someone will think it’s the best and someone else will think it’s the worst,” Stubblefield said. “So we just ask all communities and families to partner with us, provide the feedback and know decisions are grounded in the safety of our students.”

Shawnee Mission School District

Shawnee Mission schools are releasing draft plans for the return of school.

Across elementary, middle and high schools, the district is looking to offer families the option of traditional classroom teaching, 100% online learning or a combination of the two.

Parents are encouraged to offer feedback before a final plan is enacted later this month.  

Districts in Kansas are also planning for a wide range of new safety measures to enforce distancing, while stepping up cleaning measures. 

Schools in both states are also looking at ways to continue supporting students who decide to attend school remotely, with lunch options and support services they might need.

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