SMSD’s John Diemer Elementary reverts to remote learning through winter break, citing COVID-19 strain on staff

Administrators at John Diemer Elementary in Overland Park informed parents in an email Sunday night that all students would be in remote learning mode through winter break, which begins Dec. 23. File photo.

All students at John Diemer Elementary School in the Shawnee Mission School District will be in remote learning mode through at least next Tuesday, Dec. 22.

SMSD Superintendent Mike Fulton, along with the school’s principal Rob Shackelford, informed parents about the change in an email Sunday night.

Diemer students will be in all-remote learning this week, along with Monday and Tuesday of next week, before the district’s winter break begins Wednesday, Dec. 23.

Not enough substitutes available to cover COVID-19 related teacher absences

In their email, Fulton and Shackelford cited the continuing strain of the COVID-19 pandemic on the school’s staff and resources:

“There are a number of staff who will be out of the building due to reasons that include potential COVID-19 exposure,” they said. “At this point, it will not be possible to obtain all of the substitutes and necessary supervision to conduct in-person school safely this week and next. For that reason Diemer will move to remote learning from now through winter break.”

SMSD’s winter break starts Dec. 23, and students are not set to return to learning until Tuesday, Jan. 5. The administrators’ email did not say what the plan was for Diemer students after winter break.

Diemer only SMSD elementary school switching to virtual

A district spokesperson said Diemer, 9600 Lamar Ave., Overland Park, was the only elementary school in the district that has made such a change.

Elementary students whose families chose the district’s in-person learning option have been attending school full time since late October, after all SMSD students began the academic year learning remotely.

District leaders have voiced concerns in recent weeks that the pandemic was leading to a shortage of certified staff and substitutes to teach all classes. That led to the district returning all middle and high school students to remote learning following the Thanksgiving holiday.

In November, East Antioch Elementary shut down for one day after multiple individuals at the school were exposed to COVID-19.

As of Monday, the district’s online COVID-19 dashboard said 125 staff members were either in active isolation or quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure or a positive test. More than 550 students are also listed as being in active isolation or quarantine.