Raytown Schools get parents involved on potential plans for fall amid COVID-19

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RAYTOWN, Mo. — School districts across the metro are preparing for the fall semester.

Not knowing what the return to school will for sure look like, many districts are still keeping quiet about plans. But the Raytown School District is laying it all out there to keep parents in the loop about what may come.

The Raytown School District has set up a Reopening Committee made up of parents, staff members, students and community members to begin discussing the options they may have to follow come late August when school starts.

Part of what the committee has done is send parents a reopening survey to find out what they want to see in preparation for this upcoming school year.

“I really appreciate them sending out the survey,” said Stacey Stark, who has two elementary-age children in the Raytown district.

Stark is one of the 1,500 Raytown parents so far who have taken the survey. She’s especially anxious because she has a child with special needs. 

“So you have lots of children who may be have the family support and the academic ability to be very successful at virtual learning,” Stark said. “I’m not sure that that is an appropriate, helpful way to learn for my specific child.”

Superintendent Dr. Allan Markley has read similar concerns and acknowledged some students will have to be in school every day to be successful.

Markley and his staff have spent the summer so far working on virtual curriculum, which might be necessary and must be better than last spring.

“As we get into the fall, we are going to have to have the viable curriculums that people will be held accountable for,” Markley said. “DESE is going to hold us accountable, particularly probably on attendance, so those things are all going to have to be taken into account.”

While the district is still waiting on responses from most of its 8,400 student’s parents, many of the replies favor in-school learning to a virtual scenario.

So far, the Reopening Committee has come up with a four-tiered working plan.

The best case is that students are in school 100% of the time.

A plan for 50% in-class learning where students would go to school every other day is the next tier.

A 20% in-school plan, which means one day a week in the school building, is the last in-class option before the fourth tier, a 100% virtual learning scenario.

“I feel a lot less anxious and a lot more at ease knowing that there’s contingency plans for every step of the way,” said Beth Plank, a Raytown parent, school board member and member of the Reopening Committee.

“It’s still early, so we don’t have the exact layout of everything, but I feel very confident as a parent sending my child to school knowing that we’ve looked at all of the options and what all of the ramifications are.”

During Monday night’s Raytown School Board Meeting, the board approved $700,000 in additional expenses for a possible virtual school experience.

It will be expensive to set up for long-term virtual learning. It’s made more difficult Markley said, because of Gov. Mike Parson’s recent school funding cuts, which Markley expects to happen again before the semester begins.

“We are hoping for the best and preparing for the worst, and the worst would be if we had to be virtually completely again,” the Raytown superintendent said. 

Whatever plan is put in place depends upon what the COVID-19 virus does and if it comes back in the fall.

Markley said the district’s plans could change week to week, but it’s difficult to know what will happen until it does.

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