LEE’S SUMMIT, MO (KCTV) – The Lee’s Summit Board of Education voted Tuesday night to have some students return to virtual learning.

The board voted to move 4th – 12th graders to virtual learning starting November 23rd through the end of the semester. They set January 25th as a projected return date. The vote on grades 7th – 12th was unanimous. The vote on grades 4th – 6th was 6-to-1.

One reason for that return date was to allow for two weeks after the end of the holiday season. There is speculation that holiday gatherings can cause a spike in COVID-19 cases.

“Cases began climbing in the two weeks after Halloween,” said Superintendent Dr. David Buck. “Our quarantines have just almost tripled this last week.”

The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that in the past seven days, they’ve had 123 new COVID cases and 726 new quarantines.

Buck said those last seven days also marks the first time they have seen cases of spread in school buildings and at sports practice. That did not, he said, happen with any of the fall sports teams.

He said it was just “a handful” but noteworthy, nonetheless.

One LSR7 elementary school went virtual for two weeks beginning last Friday because approximately 20% of staff and students were on quarantine.

Topics discussed included concerns about health, staffing concerns and consistency. Buck referred to the latter as “change fatigue,” the result of going from in-person to virtual and back again several times over.

A substantial number of substitute teachers are also on quarantine. Buck said the substitute fill rate is now below 80%.

District staff met with a group of teachers, the Jackson County Health Department and team of five doctors prior to the meeting.

Teachers all felt strongly that they needed a few days before moving to virtual learning to facilitate a smooth transition.

The Jackson County Health Department, he said, recommended a move to virtual learning for secondary schools, noting their health concerns increased for age 10 and older. That translates to 4th grade. The health department did not recommend virtual learning for PreK-3rd grade.

The team of doctors had mixed opinions on whether to treat the youngest kids differently. They noted that kids in lower grades need more home supervision and the social and emotional risks are higher for them as well. Several did, however, advise that those lower grades should move to virtual learning until two weeks after Thanksgiving.

Initially, the board discussed an option of moving those grades to virtual learning until December 14th, to allow for that. Some questioned if that would create consistency problems.

Right now, those grades have always had the option of in-person or virtual. Ultimately, the board voted 5-to-2 to continue with in-person learning for those who already selected that option.

You can watch the meeting below. 

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