The Kansas City Metro School District is moving classes online for the rest of the week, as officials hope to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 after facing high rates of employee and student absenteeism.
The Odessa School District, east of Kansas City, announced Wednesday that it will hold classes roughly on Thursday and Friday. Officials said activities and athletics would continue as scheduled. Students are expected to return to classes on Monday.
“We will continue to make decisions that are in the best interest of students and staff. In the announcement, officials said, these decisions come in an effort to help facilitate a safe and healthy learning environment.
at the same time, Joseph’s School, which has been closed since Tuesday, has canceled classes until this weekend. Knob Noster School District, in Johnson County, Missouri, on Wednesday extended school closures through Friday “due to a large number of staff and student absenteeism/illness.” The district closed schools for the first time last Friday.
Unlike Odessa, none of these regions will hold virtual classes.
Last year, Kansas City-area areas switched to online-only classes during the COVID-19 outbreak, but they have fewer options left this school year. Missouri and Kansas have both placed restrictions on distance learning, and breaking the rules could mean risking state funding.
In Missouri, if a classroom or building must be temporarily closed, counties can submit a plan to the state, which can allow them up to 36 hours of alternative education, such as distance learning.
In its announcement on Wednesday, Odessa officials said they will use the alternative teaching method, or AMI, for hours, for virtual classes. Despite this, most districts in similar situations have canceled classes entirely amid the COVID-19 escalation, spurred by the highly contagious omicron variant.
As counties struggle to keep schools open due to staff shortages and the ongoing virus outbreak, the Missouri Teachers’ Association is calling for those restrictions to be eased.
“Additional days should be allocated to Missouri schools to allow them to close when necessary without being penalized,” CEO Bruce Moe wrote in a letter last week.
“The importance of flexibility and grace to ensure student learning and the health of communities cannot be overstated. Policy makers, the state board of education, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must step up and lead on these issues. School districts and staff look for guidance and support.”
In Kansas, the state legislature has passed a law that limits distance learning to no more than 40 hours per student.
The Olathe and Kansas City, Kansas, areas canceled schools on Tuesdays and Wednesdays because there were not enough staff to staff the buildings. Students in those areas are expected to return on Thursday.
Olathe Director Brent Yeager said in a letter to families that with so few staff available, remote learning would not be possible.
“As many of you know, this year the state is making available up to 40 hours of distance learning. Unfortunately, at this time, with the scale of employee illnesses, we are unable to conduct distance learning.
Last week, Wyandotte County’s Bonner Springs Edwardsville School District canceled classes on Thursdays and Fridays, saying a quarter of students were sick. The De Soto District, in Johnson County, along with the Eudora District in neighboring Douglas County, canceled classes on Friday.