‘Safety above all else’: KCPS delays in-person learning with focus on students, staff

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Public Schools have halted plans to return young children to the classroom next month.

Younger kids were supposed to return to the classroom on Nov. 9 under a hybrid learning plan. But school leaders say coronavirus infection rates are headed up again, particularly within some urban core neighborhoods in the district, which have seen COVID-19 rates as high as 25%. Overall, the infection rate is higher than 10% across the district’s boundaries.

As a result, pre-K through third graders will remain in virtual learning for the foreseeable future.

“Safety above all else truly means that. We have to make sure we are protecting our adults just as much as we are protecting our students in all of this,” said Mark Bedell, district superintendent.

“I’ve mentioned multiple times that this is a matter of life and death on both fronts. Adults are dying for this. And when you begin to look at it from a proportionality standpoint, African American adults are dying at a much higher rate. I serve one of the highest percentages of African American employees in the state of Missouri.”

Recruiting and retaining good teachers is harder to do in urban school districts. Bedell said being more sensitive to putting staff at risk of a disease that hits minority communities harder also has been an important consideration.

Board members have said they want all children in the district to have equal learning opportunities.

The district said it will review virus infection rates on a daily basis and provide parents two weeks notice on any possible return to school.

For now, only 200 special education students will resume in-person classes on Nov. 9.

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