Park Hill making plans for summer and beyond
With the start of the 2020-2021 school year nearly three months out, many are wondering what the academic year will look like. Will homeschooling continue or will schools reopen? If a second wave of COVID-19 strikes, will officials have sufficient time to react? What new measures will be implemented to keep educators and students safe?
At least for now, there are no definitive answers.
The coronavirus pandemic forced local schools to close on March 16 after a request from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas. Like many other districts, the Park Hill School District pivoted to distance learning for the remainder of the school year, which turned out to be 58 days (the entire fourth quarter of the academic year).
On Thursday, Park Hill district officials announced they have organized a 20-member task force that will engage in a more thorough examination of safety and health of students during this coronavirus pandemic.
Currently, the task force is reviewing thousands of parent survey results, particularly relating to considerations for the next academic year.
“Preliminarily, the most talked about item is about the safety of our people, family and our kids,” said Dr. Mike Kimbrel, executive director of quality and evaluation, during a videoconference. Feedback from students and staff members will also be considered, added Kimbrel.
“There is so much change that happens around COVID,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd. “We just don’t know. We are trying to work with the very best data possible and the very best information that we have.”
Though a decision has not been made to reopen schools next year, “the one thing that we will do and are committed to is providing clear communication to our families and making sure that we provide them an opportunity to plan as we move ahead,” she added.
As school buildings reopen to the community this summer, Cowherd presented the school board with a COVID-19 symptom checklist that the district plans to distribute to parents.
“The district is partnering with parents to make sure students are healthy to come to school,” said Cowherd.
If a child has any of the dozen symptoms listed on the checklist, parents are advised to keep the child home from school and any on-site activities.
With high school summer school programs offered remotely from home, the first school building in the district to reopen this summer will be the Gerner Family Early Education Center. Dr. Paul Kelly, assistant superintendent, said preschool classes will be held face-to-face, but on a smaller scale.
On June 15, Adventure Club, which goes by Summer Day Camp during the summer, will be held face-to-face at various school locations.
No final decision has been made on summer school that could start July 1 for elementary and middle school. School officials said they plan to announce a final decision on June 15 whether those summer school sessions will be distance learning or in-person.
Additionally, outdoor facilities will be reopening in mid-June to students and staff for training and activities.
Perhaps outside groups, like churches and sports teams, may even eventually receive clearance to enter the district’s buildings.
“We will also start taking reservations for the internal use of our buildings on June 1, but we have yet to decide when those will actually open up,” said Dr. Kelly.