After a few days of school districts making the call on their own, area superintendents have decided to close classes through April 3 as a public health precaution.
“It’s pretty much areawide,” Grain Valley Superintendent Marc Snow said, referring to districts in Jackson, Platte, Clay and Cass counties.
Snow and other area superintendents spent much of Monday conferring with local health officials and municipal leaders. “After the president’s announcement (regarding the CDC recommendations of gatherings of 10 or fewer), the mayor (Kansas City’s Quinton Lucas) made his conference call.”
The Independence and Fort Osage school districts had announced Sunday they would close for two weeks until March 30, with spring break already scheduled to start Friday through next week. The Blue Springs, Grain Valley and Lee’s Summit school districts, all on spring break this week, had not announced a decision earlier regarding classes next week.
Independence Superintendent Dale Herl said he assumed an announcement like Monday’s would happen eventually, though he’d hoped they might be able to hang on until spring break started and use Friday for staff development. After some conversations Sunday, though, it became clear that wouldn’t happen.
“We’ve had meetings for two over two weeks to be prepared for this, so we feel like we’re ahead of the game a bit,” Herl said. “Staff has been phenomenal getting things ready.”
Schools in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic Diocese are also on spring break this week, and Superintendent Dan Peters posted Friday that school administrators were preparing lessons for extended closures.
Districts all around have been taking a similar course of action, preparing virtual learning resources.
Snow posted Friday the district had students and teachers take home “any resources they may need to stay engaged with learning or teaching” if school is out for an extended time.
“We are prepared to share supplemental instructional resources with students and families in the event of an ordered closure, and are prepared to provide internet hotspots to families if needed,” Snow said. “Our current circumstances are a time for preparedness and caution to protect the health of our school district family. This is a time for calm as we shift how we conduct ourselves. It is definitely not a time for panic.”
The Independence School District said Sunday it would still offer some student meals. “Grab and go” lunches will be available at Bridger Middle School, Randall Elementary and Truman, Van Horn and William Chrisman high schools between 11 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Staff will bring meals to vehicles at the front entrance. Meal distribution will resume at those sites March 30.
District staff were working Monday and Tuesday to prepare virtual learning resources that students will find on the district website. For elementary students who do not have regular access to the internet, the district said it will also be providing printed activities at the student meal distribution sites during the meal pick-up times.
Parents who do not have technology at home can choose to pick up and check out a Chromebook from their child’s school from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Parents will need to sign a waiver, and the district will use its library check out process for Chromebooks. Check-out will take place through the front entrance of each school site.
Herl acknowledged that programs such as food service weigh heavily with many superintendents when deciding to cancel classes.
“A school district, we’re a social service as much as we are an educational service, and we know that not having schools open is certainly a hardship for some.”
Fort Osage Schools will also be providing free lunch for children 18-younger 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Lunches can be picked up near the entrances of Buckner, Elm Grove, Cler-Mont elementaries and Hawthorne Place Apartments (entrance off U.S. 24). Lunches will also include small breakfast items for the next day. Meals will be served first come, first served. After spring break concludes meal distribution will resume at those sites.