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Independence school start date draws protest

Mike Genet

The grassroots group Missourians for Educational Change says it plans to host a rally Tuesday afternoon to urge the Independence School District to push back its scheduled start date and begin the school year with all virtual classes, given the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the county.

The rally is scheduled for 4 p.m. outside the district’s central office near Forest Avenue and Truman Road. The group says it also plans to have a rally there Saturday afternoon.

The district plans to start the school year next Monday, one of the few in the metro area to not push back its start date two weeks to after Labor Day. The district plans to have middle school and high school students start the school year with a hybrid schedule. Two groups of students at the school buildings will have alternating weeks of in-person and virtual classes.

Andrew Rexroat, spokesperson for Missourians for Educational Change, said the group had received dozens of messages from concerned staff and teachers in the district, concerned about the start date, in-person classes and also the teacher load for virtual classes.

“They’re worried not only for themselves, but they’re worried for the students,” Rexroat said.

The district said earlier this month about 25 percent of students across the district signed up for all virtual classes for the fall semester. Elementary students who did not sign up for virtual classes will have in-person classes five days a week. Students and staff will be required to wear masks at all times besides eating lunch and physical education classes.

Independence Superintendent Dale Herl said earlier this month that administrators felt comfortable with the scheduled start date because of the district’s ability to have workouts and summer school classes with few classes, along with the virtual learning plan it already developed.

Herl said ISD staff have also been given the choice of a short-term or long-term sabbatical if they do not feel ready to return to school.