Many parents, students rejoice Olathe schools’ plan to bring elementary, pre-K kids back to class

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OLATHE, Kan. — Olathe Public Schools is now planning to bring elementary and preschool kids back to the classroom full time.

The decision comes after Blue Valley announced a similar transition, moving from hybrid learning to full face-to-face instruction.

Ashley Valentine is learning about leadership by Zoom in her Olathe middle school class. The straight-A student said it’s been hard to stay focused in virtual school.

“It’s kind of hard because then you’re just like, ‘I want to go do anything else in the world right now except sit here another minute!’” Valentine said.

Her sister Kourtney’s online learning in elementary school has much shorter Zoom sessions, but she said the experience is still proving stressful when technology glitches and deadlines get missed.

“I felt worried! It happened to me like two days ago, and I was like, ‘Oh no!’ And I started crying because I thought I was going to be punished or something,” Kourtney said.

Kourtney currently gets a computer break two days a week with in-person classes in the hybrid model. But starting Sept. 28, she and all early childhood and elementary students in Olathe Public Schools will get to go back to classrooms five days a week.

“That way it’s going to make it much easier so I don’t have to deal with this,” Kourtney said.

Heather Miller has three kids in Olathe preschool and elementary. The single mom has had to spend extra money on daycare during digital learning days, and she said it’s been tough on the whole family.

“There’s so many single parents out here who are struggling to figure out how to balance everything. We weren’t prepared to be teachers on top of working and providing for our students,” Miller said.

The nursing home where Heather works hasn’t had a single COVID-19 case. She believes with precautions like Olathe is already using — masks, hand hygiene and distancing — kids and teachers can stay safe, too, while getting back important social connections they need to be successful.

“We can’t allow the virus to affect us and be scared of it to the point where we don’t live anymore. We are still human beings. Our students still need that interaction and education,” Miller said.

Olathe’s Board of Education is expected to review plans for how middle and high school students could also return to in-person learning at is meeting Oct. 1.

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