Olathe teachers, parents start working out challenges of new learning mode changes

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OLATHE, Kan. — Teachers in the metro’s largest district are now back on the job. Olathe welcomed educators back for training and planning sessions starting Thursday. 

Now, school staff and families are beginning to sort out the challenges they’ll face moving forward.

Olathe kids are relishing the last two weeks of summer break. The Schurr family was hoping kids could go back in person, but now, their 7th grader will be doing school online.

“We’re pretty good at adapting, and we’ll adapt for however long we have to, and we’ll make it work,” dad Dustin Schurr said.

He’s thankful his wife is able to stay home with the kids but worries for single and two-parent working homes.

“Day care is not cheap, and if they don’t have a kid that’s old enough to babysit the younger one, what are they going to do?” Schurr said. “It’s going to add a little bit more cost to daily living.”

Olathe Public Schools Superintndent John Allison knows that’s a very real concern for families, especially with elementary students. The district’s opted for a hybrid model for these younger kids, which will only put students in classrooms two days a week with virtual learning the other three days.

District leaders are working with Johnson County Parks & Rec and other community partners to help parents find child care.

“Hopefully this is a transition, a temporary one, and as we see data and recommendations of changes, we’ll be able, particularly at the elementary level, to get our classes back on a five day a week schedule again.” Allison said.

Allison said the hybrid model for the youngest students was the best compromise to help spread kids out in school buildings, while still offering the benefits of face-to-face learning. 

Of course, there are parents frustrated that the risk they were willing to take in coming back to class is now a decision made for them.

“The flip side of that is when we’re in school face-to-face, there are those students at higher risk in a classroom with parents that didn’t make that choice or those teachers, and that’s been a balancing act,” Allison said.

Teachers are now getting critical training to help them switch between in-person and online teaching modes so they can help students learn best in each method.  

The district plans to re-evaluate everything with the health department Sept. 22. 

In the meantime, the superintendent’s asking for everyone’s help to meet the goal of eventually having all kids back in school buildings.

“Everyone’s tired, but this pandemic is not going to disappear anytime soon, and we do, as a community, have an ability to help control this,” Allison said.

The next big hurdle in Olathe is getting all the needed devices for middle school students doing virtual learning. 

A truck carrying thousands of iPads to the district crashed. So the district is now working with several entities to get laptops for them, in hopes all the devices arrive by the start of school on Sept. 8.

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