Shawnee Mission School District says no to remote learning next year

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SHAWNEE, Kan. — A big change is coming for students this fall in one of the metro’s largest school districts.

Shawnee Mission will not offer a remote learning option, so students will have to attend in-person or transfer elsewhere.

The news is welcomed by parents who’ve fought for full in-person learning to know remote school won’t even be on the table come fall. But no one can predict what the pandemic will be like in August, and that’s why other families are frustrated they may have to change schools to stay safe.

Remote learning are two words no one was ready for this time last year.

“It was kind of a shock, but you know I’ve got two children and have a compromised immune system so completely understood and supported that decision,” said Shawnee Mission School District parent Beth Koon.

With her family’s health concerns, Koon decided the best thing was to continue remote learning through Shawnee Mission Schools this year.

“That was just a very easy decision for us to decide to stay home with the kids and stay safe,” Koon said.

Koon said her kids are excelling in online classes. So she was stunned to see a letter from SMSD Tuesday, saying remote learning won’t be available next school year.

“To presume that the pandemic is over, there’s no spread and that adults or families like mine with immune compromised family members, who do need to make these decisions to isolate, to stay safe, to pull that rug out from under us I felt was very alarming,” Koon said.

While the district knows some kids have thrived in remote learning, others have struggled, and it wants to offer the best in-person experience possible. In a letter to parents, the district wrote, “Absent a pandemic, there is no legal way to continue providing the remote learning option.”

“We may still be in the pandemic to some degree. We won’t have kids vaccinated, but the changes that the governor had authority to put in place and that the Kansas Department of Education had authority to put in place, those will have expired and there’s no indication those will be renewed,” said David Smith, a SMSD spokesperson.

So far, 72% of all school staff have at least one COVID-19 vaccine and will receive the second soon. SMSD believes with continued precautions it can be a safe school year.

“We are in regular conversations with Johnson County Department of Health and Environment and what they’ve been telling us is to expect the need to continue into the fall for all of those mitigating factors that would keep us safe—so that’s what we’ve been saying and what we expect. That we’ll still need to wear masks, still need to social distance, all of those things,” Smith said.

Kansas districts can still operate a virtual academy, as a separate program from traditional school, but Shawnee Mission is opting not to pursue that option.

Neighboring Blue Valley Schools shared:

“As part of the enrollment and registration process we have offered a virtual option. Based on current enrollment, it appears there is a trend toward the traditional in-person learning experience.”

Olathe Schools told FOX4:

“We’re still in the process of learning from KSDE but will have more information to share in April. This virtual environment would be available to a select few students and families that needed this learning atmosphere.”

There are also statewide virtual schools that could be an option for families not ready to send kids back to classrooms next year.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently told FOX4 there are not currently regulations in place to support remote or hybrid learning after this school year but anticipate there will continue to be virtual learning options for those children who have not been vaccinated or may have health conditions making them more susceptible to illness.

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