The Shawnee Mission School District’s (SMSD) commitment – each student will have a personalized learning plan that prepares them to be college/career ready and have the interpersonal skills they need for life success – may seem common sense and simple. It is common sense. However, working as a community to make this vision a reality for every child is exceedingly complex. Achieving these three objectives takes time to plan and implement. It requires a formal approach to evaluating our growth on meaningful measures, in order to ensure we are making these objectives a reality for every child. And, in this time of COVID-19, it takes on new meaning as we address the challenges of meeting all children’s learning needs while school buildings are closed.
Our current reality, where we are charged with continuing to educate more than 27,000 students from a distance, accentuates the importance of having systems in place that support student success. As schools across the country make a sudden shift to distance learning, they are finding their capacity to keep learning going for all children severely put to the test. The underbelly of every community’s and school’s infrastructure is being exposed. The degree to which communities have invested in the success and well-being of its schools and children is being laid bare. In Johnson County and in the Shawnee Mission School District, we are blessed to have access to health care and educational resources that attend to our well-being and keep learning going for all students.
With the closing of school buildings on March 16, SMSD made a swift adjustment to distance learning. Our task is to meet the needs of every student. This task is challenged by the reality that in some families there is a richness of resources, while other households face scarcity of essential life needs. SMSD’s commitment to address issues of access and equity is demonstrated in our “Pick Up and Go” meal distribution program, which ensures every child who needs it gets free breakfast and lunch. We have also worked to provide every child the learning material they need at home, including print and digital tools. Meeting every student’s needs requires careful, personalized planning on the part of our educators. We are proud of the work our SMSD team is doing to reach out to and meet the needs of every child.
Nothing in our world is perfect in this time of rapid change. Parents, students and teachers are adjusting on the fly to a new and unplanned reality. Our community is to be commended for the great job we are doing supporting one another in this time of crisis. SMSD is using this as an opportunity to better understand our strengths in providing distance learning, and the opportunities that exist to learn and do better. Evaluating the effectiveness of our practice is part of SMSD’s long-term commitment to continuous improvement. Working from our strengths and getting better over time is critical to ensuring our strategic planning objectives move from words on a page to reality in the life of every child we serve.
Thank you for making SMSD a great place to live, learn and work.