Some metro families opting for homeschooling as districts release fall plans

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — On Monday night, at least a dozen local school districts are meeting to discuss back-to-school plans.

This all comes as parents around the metro are faced with tough choices about how their kids will be educated this fall. In addition to options for in-person or online instruction, some families are adding a third choice to the mix: homeschooling.

Erica Frans has a full house with five kids, from infancy through high school aged. For the school kids, virtual learning last spring wasn’t easy.

“I found that for my older kids, the MacBooks were doable, but for the younger kids, the iPads were a huge distraction,” Frans said.

So this fall, she’s sending her teens back in-person to Shawnee Mission schools. But her grade school students will embark on traditional homeschooling for the first time.  

“We just felt like this was the best way to have consistency, low use of devices and screen time, as well has having the one-on-one learning I want for my kids,” Frans said.

The Shawnee Mission School District said it has spent a lot of time this summer beefing up its virtual learning platform, hoping to give parents and students who choose online learning a better experience this year.

There’s a new centralized learning platform called Canvas for all classwork and communication between students, teachers and families, plus a new connectivity and safety filter.

“Keeping others out is something our Canvas platform does, and we have some other platforms inside the Canvas system, but then Light Speed is going to be our filter to make sure kids only get to see appropriate content,” said David Smith, Shawnee Mission School District spokesperson.

By pushing school’s start after Labor Day, Shawnee Mission also hopes teachers will be well-versed on the new systems and prepared to help virtual students succeed.

“The thing I think is critical regardless is the learning,” Smith said. “That’s the constant that has to happen. We expect each of our kids to have a personalized learning plan that’s going to prepare them for college and careers, and to have interpersonal skills they need for life success. That’s got to be our focus.”

For Frans, there’s both anxiety and excitement about having kids in two kinds of school.  But she encourages families that there’s plenty of support to navigate the path ahead.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “You have plenty of time and can get yourself organized for whatever option you want to choose.”

Shawnee Mission’s school board is expected to approve the modified school calendar for the next year on Monday night, which will likely extend school into June. 

Parents will be asked to select what learning option they’d like for students later this week. Early estimates based on survey results indicate about 20% of students will be learning strictly online this fall.

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