Multiple Kansas City area school districts closing due to rise in COVID-19 cases

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Multiple school districts in the Kansas City area are canceling classes on Friday citing rising COVID-19 numbers, other illnesses and not having enough substitute teachers.

Eudora and De Soto school districts joined USD 204 Bonner Springs/Edwardsville Thursday in its decision to put the school year on hiatus until next week.

The Wellsville, Kansas, School District in Franklin County have also canceled classes for Friday citing a substantial increase in COVID-19 numbers in the past week that has greatly impacted staff and available substitutes.

Wellsville said student cases are also on the rise with its active case count currently above 3%. Masks will be required for all students, staff and visitors through Jan. 28.

Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools announced Thursday that due to a staff shortage, buses are expected to be anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes late on Friday. The school district is also asking families to start preparing for COVID-19 related school closures now, including childcare options, if needed.

The De Soto School District said it has had nearly 100 teaching positions unfilled this week, requiring school and district staff to try to fill the gaps.

“For Friday, January 14, nearly 20 percent of classroom teachers are already not available. This is having a negative impact on our daily instruction for students,” the district said in a release Thursday sent to students and parents. “This challenge does not take into account absences among our school support staff.”

This week staff in the Bonner Springs/Edwardsville School District had a 16% absence rate. These are the statistic leading up to the decision by administrators now hoping for a “health reset.”

What that looks like is schools are closed Thursday and will also be closed Friday. Then there is the weekend and Monday was already a scheduled holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

That means there are five days that the district hopes will set attendance back on a more normal track.

Students in Bonner Springs said they learned of the shut-down late Wednesday from teachers.

“We all thought she was messing with us. We were like ‘really?’ Like we didn’t think she was serious,” Lexi Lister, a senior at Bonner Springs High School, said.

“Some people, we were like not happy. We didn’t want it to happen. And then other people were like ‘Oh, I hope we have to never come back.’ And I don’t want that to happen,” Lister said.

“There was one day in one of my choir classes where usually there’s about 22. There was eight people in there that day,” Lister said.

Superintendent Dan Brungardt said the COVID-19 situation was bad enough on Monday, more than 4% of absences, that it triggered everyone to mask again in the high school.

The district made this decision to put a pause on learning, using its allocation of snow days, Brungardt said.

“We know that when we don’t have school that there’s going to be younger kids with parents who have to find a place for them. It’s not an easy decision but the decision was based upon the fact that we had the spread of the flu – all sorts of things going on right now,” Brungardt said.

“And we reached a point where it’s better to shut down, get everybody healthy and come back to school,” Brungardt said.

“It’s the people who come in the morning to cook and our bus drivers and our teachers keeping us open,” Brungardt said.

Lister said the situation reminds her of earlier in her high school career which was severely disrupted.

“We didn’t come back from spring break sophomore year. And this was the first year we get to be back like full time. So, I want to complete my senior year. I want to have that experience,” Lister said.

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