USD 232 will start school year with all students learning remotely

USD 232 Superintendent Frank Harwood acknowledged some families and students would be "upset" by the decision to start the semester with students learning remotely, but he also said it was the safest alternative for students and staff with current county COVID-19 trends. File photo.

The USD 232 school district will begin the 2020-21 school year on Sept. 8 with all students learning remotely, following guidance from Johnson County health officials.

District leaders notified students and families in a message Tuesday afternoon, after the superintendents for all six public school districts in Johnson County met with county health officials.

“In order to open schools safely for in-person instruction, the community transmission should be moderate or low,” the district’s statement said. “No matter how the data is presented, the level of transmission of COVID-19 in the county is too high for our students and staff to safely return to the in-person or hybrid learning models.”

The district’s statement noted that the decision to begin school remotely for all students does not impact students who had already selected the district’s remote learning model.

Superintendent Frank Harwood shared more details about the decision in a video posted on YouTube.

“We recognize that remote learning creates a hardship for many of our families,” Harwood said in the video. “We also know that remote learning is not the best environment to help our students grow academically, socially or emotionally. However, the rate of spread of COVID-19 in our community makes remote learning the right choice given the circumstances.”

Harwood acknowledged the choice to start the semester remotely, even if driven by scientific data, was likely to not sit well with some families and students, some of whom have been vocal about USD 232 reopening to in-person learning.

“Some of you will be upset by this decision, while others will be relieved,” Harwood said. “No matter your reaction, I want to thank you for your continued support of your students and the USD 232 community. Working together, we can do our best for all of our students.”

District officials said they will reassess the decision to begin school remotely within the first few weeks after remote learning begins on Sept. 8.

USD 232 will also keep elementary schools in the same learning environment as secondary schools, district officials said, citing efforts to be more cautious with its elementary student on-site capacity than the JCDHE gating criteria recommended.