SMSD News: Update on reopening process

Understandably, there are many questions and concerns across the community about how school will take place in the 2020-2021 school year. Through it all, the Shawnee Mission School District is committed to providing a safe, consistent learning environment amidst the realities of COVID-19.

This will be a year of new and unique challenges. We want to provide an update on the work we have done to prepare, and on the timeline for our planning process as the start of the school year approaches.

So far this summer

Draft reopening plans for the reopening of schools at the early childhood/elementary, middle, and high school levels for the 2020-2021 school year have been developed by teams of administrators, teachers, staff and students. We have also incorporated what we learned from parents, families, students, and staff through surveys and Thoughtexchanges into the development of this plan.

Some of the certainties we’ve incorporated based on that feedback include:

  • The district purchased a new Learning Management System (LMS) called Canvas
  • The district is replacing the Virtual Private Network (VPN) with a cloud-based System called Lightspeed
  • Teachers asked for additional time for professional development, which was added to the calendar
    There will be grades, required attendance, and regular connections between teachers and students

Additional feedback collection underway

This week, the draft reopening plans for early childhood/elementary, middle, and high schools were shared with staff and families, who were asked to review the plans, and most importantly, provide feedback via a new Thoughtexchange.

The plan details three different approaches to instructional delivery: Students in school, an alternating schedule where students would attend school on-site part-time and learn remotely online part-time, and all instruction occurring remotely at home. These draft plans provide a roadmap on what to expect, and we hope help all of us to be better prepared to adjust our personal lives based on changing conditions.

Feedback on these draft reopening plans will help us evaluate and improve the plans prior to final adoption and implementation.

Future Planning

Next week the Kansas Department of Education will present to the State Board of Education a plan that provides guidance to Kansas school districts on reopening school. District staff will ensure the Shawnee Mission plan aligns with the directions provided by the state. Our approaches to instruction, whether in class or remote, will support continuity of learning throughout the school year and ensure Shawnee Mission meets the Kansas requirement for 1,116 hours of school attendance.

The Shawnee Mission Board of Education will hold a special meeting on July 20. The meeting agenda, which will be posted to Board Docs prior to the meeting, will include consideration of the district’s reopening plan. The reopening plan will be shared broadly, and individual schools will work to adapt it to their buildings when staff return.

First Days of School

As Shawnee Mission previously announced earlier this summer, the first days of school for students have been adjusted from the days originally published. The 2020-2021 calendars reflecting the changes are posted here.
SMSD will work with state and county health authorities to implement a strategy for reopening schools that is consistent with their guidelines. We are planning for most students to begin the year in school. However, we do anticipate and understand that some students may need a remote learning environment. Specific guidelines will be developed and shared with parents so they understand available options, eligibility and any conditions regarding those options. Regardless of approach, it will be important to have as much consistency as possible so that educators can plan instruction, students have continuity in their learning, and parents can organize their professional and personal needs. It will take a considerable amount of teamwork as we navigate what could be changing circumstances throughout the school year.

As always, our SMSD staff, students, families, and community collaborate proactively for the best outcomes for our students. Our objective remains the same: that each student will have a personalized learning plan that will prepare them for college and careers, with the interpersonal skills they need for life success.