OVERLAND PARK, KS (KCTV) – The superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District announced Monday night that they are soon going to begin full-time in-person learning for all grades. The change begins on March 22nd.

The change effects secondary schools, who were placed in a hybrid model on January 26th. Elementary school students are already in full-time in-person learning mode.

A small but passionate group of parents stood outside the board meeting room Monday night holding signs that read “Time to let kids back in class.” Social distancing guidelines meant attendance inside the board room was limited.

SMSD meeting parents 2.22.21

Several parents stand outside SMSD BOE meeting Monday night.

Several parents delivered heartfelt and sometimes tearful statements about why they say hybrid doesn’t cut it.

“These kids are not okay,” said Jean Lucas, who has one child in middle school and another in high school. “They need to be face to face with their teachers and peers.”

“I am frustrated, I am sad, and I am pissed,” said Claire Campbell, who has three children in Shawnee Mission schools.

“These kids live for interaction with their peers,” said district parent Katherine Boyce. “You’ve also got the non-starter kids, the kids that can’t just get on the computer and do things.”

Amy Godwin, a former educator, said she can hear her son’s interactions with teachers in the room where he works, adjacent to her home office. One teacher inspired her son to write a poem about his experiences.

“These teachers are reaching out to the kids, the ones who are at home in charge of their siblings, the ones at home who are isolated. I hear these teachers reaching out, and this is what these teachers can pull from these kids, but not by themselves,” Godwin said.

The decision to take secondary learning full-time was made before those people spoke and comes from county health department guidance.

One key factor is that community transmission has decreased in Johnson County.

Dr. Elizabeth Holzschuh, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment’s Director of Epidemiology, warned, however, that 3-foot distancing, in some cases, won’t be attainable when secondary schools are in-person full-time. The CDC recommends six feet but the JCDHE and Children’s Mercy have consistently used three feet in their guidance, she said.

SMSD graph 2.22.21

A slide from the Feb. 22, 2021 KDHE presentation to the SMSD Board of Education highlights infection rates and caveats to full-time in-person learning.

The district has instituted a number of changes to provide additional layers of protection prior to all students returning. The specifics vary by school. Some examples include no stopping at lockers and assigned seats in lunchrooms for the middle schoolers.

The list of changes for individual middle schools can be found here. The list of changes for individual high schools can be found here.

In addition, the health department has created a new “exclusion policy” using what’s called an “airplane model” to determine who will quarantine if someone is infected.

SMSD airplane model 2.22.21

A slide from the Feb. 22, 2021 KDHE presentation to the SMSD Board of Education visualizes the "airplane" model that will be used to determine quarantine when 3-foot distancing cannot be maintained.

They will have PCR testing available for everyone. The plan for those quarantined is to test on day five and, if negative, return on day eight.

Holzschuh Monday night presented an encouraging number: 42% of teachers and staff have been vaccinated. She added that the JCDHE’s new policy states that once someone gets two weeks past their second dose, they won’t have to quarantine if exposed. She speculated this should help alleviate some of the staff shortage that was so pressing earlier in the pandemic.

A brief slide show summary of the JCDHE presentation is available here.

You can watch the full meeting here.

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