New Lee’s Summit superintendent talks back-to-school plans, taking over during pandemic

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LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Superintendent Dr. David Buck just had his first day with the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District on July 1.

He said he had plenty of plans on what he wanted to accomplish or move forward in the district, but right now his primary focus is on how best to educate students safely.

The plan Buck presented to the school board Thursday night for unanimous approval isn’t the one he expected to present when he first took over.

“The plan is always that in-person is the best education, so we want to have in-person,” Buck said.

But under the guidance of the Jackson County Health Department, unless the current significant community spread decreases, all teaching will be virtual when classes start Sept. 8. 

That could be a relief to teachers. In a recent survey, 86% of Missouri teachers said their stress level heading into the school year is at a 10 out of 10.

“We’re parents and we are community members, and we are just as worried and concerned about the health and safety of our students and our families in the community as every one else is,” said Heather Crain, Lee’s Summit NEA president.

But as the district now moves forward under the premise all education will likely be virtual to begin the school year — and will likely have at least a partial virtual component for some time for grades 4th grade and above — there are new questions.

What will virtual learning look like? 

The superintendent said it will be more rigorous and planned out than makeshift lesson plans in the spring.

“It will be the same curriculum, same standard, same pacing. It will be the same expectation for teachers,” Buck said.

“Having the later start date really does give us a chance to collaborate with our teams collaborate with our departments,” Crain said.

Eight professional development days are planned, which likely will be almost entirely focused on virtual learning.

For the new superintendent, it will be a chance to try to build relationships in a district where the previous two superintendents left in controversy. For Buck, he admits it will be a challenge, either doing that through a computer or behind a bask. 

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