Shawnee Mission expects to have plans in place for educating students amid pandemic this fall by next month

Shawnee Mission Superintendent Mike Fulton said he'll communicate additional details about planning for next year to district families in the next week or so. File photo.

The Shawnee Mission School District has tasked a group of staff members with devising a range of plans to accommodate students this coming fall — either in person or virtually — as schools across the state wade through the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a report to the board of education Monday, Superintendent Mike Fulton said the district will be relying on guidance from the state, which is expected to be released no later than July 10, before finalizing its approach for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Fulton noted that district parents and teachers had provided ample feedback about their experiences with remote learning after buildings closed in March, and that “there are some things if we’re in a virtual world that we need to do better.”

He also said that district families have a range of often conflicting views about how school should be conducted this fall.

“We also know that we are into a place where a lot of parents have mixed feelings,” he said. “Some don’t feel comfortable sending their child to school. Some absolutely believe that their child and every other child should be at school.”

Consequently, the district is looking at ways to provide students access to an education in a variety of ways.

“If a student has a need to be educated virtually, we’ve got to be prepared for that. They may have underlying health reasons, either for themselves or for family members that requires that,” Fulton said. “We hopefully will be able to educate a lot of [students] in school. That may need to happen with social distancing — what does that look like?”

Fulton said he expected to communicate more details about the district’s planning process and timeline for finalizing the approach for this fall to patrons in the next week.

Athletic fields, playgrounds reopened; High school conditioning begins next week

Fulton also noted that the district had reopened its athletic fields and playgrounds to the public on Monday.

The district officially closed its fields in late April after frequent and repeated violations of social distancing guidelines following the county’s and state’s stay-at-home orders.

Fulton said people who use district equipment and fields are expected to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

He also confirmed that athletic conditioning programs for high schools will begin next Monday, June 15 — three weeks earlier than previously announced. The start of high school conditioning was moved up after the state announced it was recommending movement into the next phase of its COVID-19 reopening plan, which allows for gatherings of up to 45 people.

However, teams will be expected to conduct practices and training exercises while adhering to virus transmission mitigation guidelines.