Metro school districts weighing fall options, including hybrid learning plans

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s a question weighing on the minds of parents with school aged children: What is going to happen in the fall?

FOX4 contacted numerous school districts in the metro area to find out what their plans are for re-opening school. The answer: It’s too early to tell.

As remote learning wraps up during what has been a strange and difficult spring semester, parents, students and teachers are anxious about what’s to come.

“It’s hard for us as adults, I think, to really comprehend what our children are missing right now,” Lee’s Summit parent John Beaudoin said. “I don’t even know that I fully comprehend it.”

The Missouri School Board Association has created recommendations to provide school leaders with guidance so learning can take place at school.

RELATED: School could look a lot different this fall under reopening suggestions from Missouri School Boards’ Association

“Will schools look different than we are used to? Probably they will,” Brent Ghan, deputy director for the Missouri School Board Association, said.

Ghan said there are all sorts of options to consider when allowing for social distancing. One option includes hybrid learning, where students spend some days from school and some days from home, or longer school days to accommodate two waves of students. Some classes will have unique challenges.

“For instance, choir, band or orchestra,” Ghan said. “We think it’s certainly possible to continue those classes but under what condition and how we going to achieve that?”

Beaudoin has a third grader in the Lee’s Summit School District. While he wants his daughter to have a normal school experience, he believes the changes that may be necessary to get back in the classrooms could be more disruptive.

“I’m not upset that we don’t have these answers,” Beaudoin said. “Every kids going to have a different experience during this, and no one is going to be doing things the same. Districts, I really think, are going to be opening themselves up to a lot of criticism if this doesn’t go well in the fall. I almost rather they say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna continue this thing until it’s safe for all of us to go back to school.'”

Each school district has unique challenges, and it will be up to each of the districts across the state to decide what is best and safest for its students.

“Can quality in education be delivered?” Ghan said. “I think absolutely, but it’s going to take some flexibility and is going to make some adjustments by everybody in order for that to take place.”

Ghan’s counterpart at the Kansas Association of School Boards, Mark Tallman, is carefully watching what the state education agencies are learning before making his association’s recommendations.

“Schools are having to think about the widest range of options, from attempting to be as close to business as possible,” he said. “If it appears we have gotten to that point to the possibility that we may not be able to come back in the same way, or that we may have to start school and interrupt it during the year, and even the possibility of local and regional variation.”

Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson said he’s optimistic schools will reopen in the fall. The Kansas State Board of Education met Tuesday to continue figuring out a plan.

Other countries like our neighbors to the north and some countries in Europe are opening schools already with plans in place to move forward.

Tallman said his association will look at how other countries plans are working as well as the state of the COVID-19 crisis in Kansas when making its recommendation.

The state is already pushing toward more individual learning, which might be accelerated in this new world. Districts are taking into consideration access, transportation and supervision, which could be issues in a hybrid-type learning environment.

“I hope next time, we will be operating in a way that is not the disruption we saw this year but will be at least be getting to experiment with some of the good things that were able to see this year. Minimize the problems that we’ve seen in the last month or so.”

Both association leaders said they are still a month or two away from having concrete answers about how children go back to school.

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