Inside SMSD: A message from Dr. Mike Fulton on school building closures

"Our goal is to keep our students, staff, and the community safe," says Shwanee Mission Superintendent Mike Fulton. "The statewide closure of school facilities is only effective if we all adhere to social distancing rules, regularly wash hands, and take other precautions as directed by health professionals."

By Dr. Mike Fulton, Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent

By now, you are doubtless aware that on Tuesday, March 17, 2019, Governor Laura Kelly issued an order, closing school buildings in Kansas for the remainder of the school year, in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus here in Kansas. Since that announcement, we have been hard at work in the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD), planning for how to adapt to this new reality. Our goal is to keep our students, staff, and the community safe. The statewide closure of school facilities is only effective if we all adhere to social distancing rules, regularly wash hands, and take other precautions as directed by health professionals.

This news certainly raises the question: What does learning and the school experience look like in SMSD going forward?
The answer is that learning will continue, with a shift to digital solutions and other strategies, and these will be shared through different platforms and updates in the days to come.

The planning process, which started several weeks ago when we understood that school might be disrupted, has the following phases:

Phase 1: CONTINGENCY PLANNING

Three weeks ago, we began working to address “What if?” scenarios. This behavior is consistent with our “Study, Plan, Act” approach to problem-solving. That preparation allowed us to gear up quickly for implementation of an SMSD plan. District leaders conducted multiple daily virtual planning meetings throughout Spring Break to formulate and finalize action steps.

Phase 2: DEEP CLEAN BUILDINGS

This week custodial and maintenance staff have been deep-cleaning buildings. We want to thank them for the great work they are doing to keep us safe.

Phase 3: MEET BASIC NEEDS

  • Free breakfast and lunches will be provided to all children ages 1-18 beginning Tuesday, March 24, 2020 at four locations. Click here for more information.
  • School nurses are staffing the Johnson County Community COVID-19 Hotline to answer questions about COVID-19 from the public. The hotline number is (91)3-715-2819, and is available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday – Friday.

Phase 4: PLANNING FOR LEARNING AND SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL NEEDS

  • Learning experiences will be developed by certified staff. The Leadership and Learning team, with support from all other departments, has been working during Spring Break to provide a framework from which to start. The framework includes guidance to all staff as they virtually return to work the week of March 23.
  • Social/emotional supports will be provided as conditions allow.
  • Community needs will be addressed in collaboration with public and private partners, and will expand over time.

Phase 5: IMPLEMENTATION AND REVISION

Implementation will be subject to adjustments as we learn how to best support our students in a distance-learning environment. We will keep our end goal to provide a safe, secure learning and work environment in mind, as we continue our work to provide each student with a personalized learning plan that prepares them for college and careers, with the social and emotional skills they need for life success.

Moving forward, we will provide our community with regular updates on our plans as they develop. We must use our many talents and strengths to support one another. Now, more than ever, we must work together for the benefit of our children and our community.