From school fees to COVID-19 — Here’s what will be different in Shawnee Mission this year

Shawnee Mission first day of school 2021

The first day of school is upon us, Shawnee Mission. Kids are back in classes Aug. 11 — here's what families need to know. File photo.

Students in the Shawnee Mission School District begin returning to school for a new year Thursday.

As the back to school activities ramp up, the Post put together a guide for families to help navigate the beginning of the year.

COVID-19 mitigation measures

Johnson County COVID-19 schools
File photo from 2021.

For the first time in two years, masks are not on students’ back-to-school supply list. At least, they don’t have to be.

  • Superintendent Michelle Hubbard reminded the school board at its most recent meeting Monday that previous COVID-19 mitigation measures expired at the end of June.
  • That means students and staff will not be required to wear face masks for the 2022-23 school year, though they still can if they want.
  • As it did last year, the district will promote vaccinations for students and their families as a way to help prevent spread of the disease.
  • Those with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 will be excluded from school and must not be symptomatic upon return on day six. A mask must be worn at school from days six to day 10, Hubbard said.

School safety

Shawnee Mission doors
Shawnee Mission is upgrading its elementary and middle school doors with button-controlled locks. Above, doors outside of a Shawnee Mission elementary school. Photo credit Juliana Garcia

Students are also returning to school for the first time since a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, left 19 students and two teachers dead.

  • The board of education reviewed its safety and security measures in place at its meeting Monday.
  • Aside from school and district resource officers, there are also panic alarms located in school offices, two-way radios that are interoperable with Johnson County first responder radios and a visitor management software that checks sex offender registries — among other things.
  • All doors are locked from the morning to the afternoon bell, and defective doors are to be reported immediately, according to the district.
  • At its Monday meeting, the board approved new hardwired button controls that can lock and unlock main entryway doors at all elementary and all middle schools except Hocker Grove, which will be upgraded with a button later.
  • Schools, as they have in past years, will have students and staff conduct lockdown, code red and evacuation drills this year.

Westwood View’s new look

New Westwood View
An interior look at the new Westwood View building. Photo courtesy Shawnee Mission.

A new building is ready to welcome Westwood View Pythons on Thursday, thanks to the $264 million bond issue voters approved in January 2021.

  • This is the first completed elementary school to be rebuilt as part of the bond issue, with four more on the future schedule.
  • The new building is located on the site of the former Entercom radio studios in Westwood, 4935 Belinder Avenue.
  • Details of the new building include several outdoor learning spaces, the ability to accommodate about twice as many students and an outdoor field for soccer and other sports.

Return of instructional resource fees

School lunches
Photo credit USDA. Used under Creative Commons license

Another new thing about this school year is that instructional resource fees for elementary students are back.

  • Formerly known as a textbook fee, the instructional resource fee this year will be $60 for elementary students.
  • In addition, the fee for secondary students is going up $20 to a total of $100.
  • Families who do not qualify for free or reduced price lunch will also have to pay school meal fees this year. That’s a big change from the past two years during the pandemic, when school meals were free for all students. However, Congress did not extend the waiver allowing the U.S. Department to Agriculture to continue that.
  • A breakdown of the fees families can expect to pay this year can be found here.

Support staff shortages

SMSD crosswalk sign
Crossing guards, which are not district employees, are needed in Shawnee Mission. File photo.

Shawnee Mission, like other Johnson County school districts, is navigating another school year with staffing shortages, especially in support staff roles.

  • After navigating major teacher and staff shortages the past two years, the district says it is in a relatively good position going into the new school year when it comes to certified staff positions like teachers and administrators.
  • The district’s job portal currently lists 16 openings for licensed teachers at all grade levels, including nine special education teachers.
  • David Smith, the district’s spokesperson, told the Post in an email this week that there still shortages for staff in support areas like custodians, food service and tech support workers and bus drivers.
  • The board of education recently approved boosting pay for substitute teachers by $5 a day to try to help fill in for absent teachers, which proved harder to do during the pandemic.
  • Additionally, there is also a county-wide crossing guard staffing shortage. Crossing guards are not employed by the district.