OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The Shawnee Mission School District will allow fall sports to begin immediately.
The district made the announcement after a 5-2 vote from the school board Wednesday afternoon.
Students and parents, many of whom had been protesting at the board’s meeting, ran out of the building cheering after the vote. They have been pushing the district for weeks to let young athletes play.
The board’s decision comes after new guidance from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.
Shawnee Mission committed in July to follow the health department’s gating criteria, which put fall sports on hold until COVID-19 cases improved. David Smith, spokesman for the district, said that hasn’t changed.
But the health department did change its mind about sports. As other districts in Johnson County and in the state have started playing, Smith said the health department thinks with precautions, athletes can play and stay safe.
“They’ve given some very specific things that need to be done in terms of cohorting and mask-wearing and limiting the people in the stands, things like that,” Smith said. “So all of that’s going to happen, and they were very clear today that it can happen and it can happen safely.”
Senior football players were thrilled with the vote.
“I’m happy. Obviously, it’s such a good thing to see that we’re actually able to play. It took so long to get an answer, but we needed an answer, and I’m so happy that we got it today,” J.C. Alvarenga said.
He said he has asthma, so he’s considered high risk, but the teen said he’ll take every precaution and so will his teammates.
“I’ve been working with this team all my life. They’re like my brothers,” Alvarenga said. “I don’t really care about the risk at this point. I just want to play with them. We practiced all summer, and we did everything they told us to do. We actually didn’t have any problems.”
But Smith said the health department has been very clear that they must continue to not have problems.
“If we have a surge of cases or clusters of cases, they will shut schools down,” Smith said. “We’ve said that to your kids. You have one shot. Do not throw away your shot.”
Shawnee Mission also made another big decision Wednesday, announcing they’ll allow elementary students to return to the classrooms for a hybrid schedule in October.
Superintendent Mike Fulton said the first step in moving from remote to in-person learning is to implement the hybrid model with two days in-person and three days remote.
Eventually, the district hopes to bring older grade levels to a hybrid schedule as well.
“Once we transition to hybrid, we will remain in hybrid or in-person for the remainder of the school year unless otherwise directed by the JCHDE,” Fulton said.
The schedule is as follows:
- Sept 9-13: Parents make selection for 2020-2021 school year (optional)
- Sept 14-18: Remote all students Pre-K-6
- Sept 21-25 Remote all students Pre-K-6
- Sept 28-Oct 2 Remote all students Pre-K-6
- (New schedules begin)
- Oct. 5-9 Hybrid for in-person students Pre-K-2
- Oct. 12-16 Hybrid for in-person students Pre-K-6
- Oct 19-23 Transition to all in-person begins