To allow elementary school students to continue learning in-person, the Shawnee Mission School District had to shift substitutes from its secondary schools.
The district near Kansas City started the year with full online learning, moved to hybrid for all grades and then brought elementary school students back in-person by the end of October.
Students in grades 7 through 12 remained on a hybrid model, but around Thanksgiving, the district faced a substitute shortage, Superintendent Mike Fulton says.
“In order to have enough substitutes for the elementaries, we had to go remote for secondary,” Fulton says.
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Fulton also had to ensure the elementary schools had enough support staff and paraprofessionals, as some employees have been shifted to the district’s intensive contract-tracing program.
Shawnee Mission has also been conducting targeted COVID testing of asymptomatic and high-risk staff and students, such as special education students who can wear masks.
The district, which maintains a COVID dashboard, now does proactive testing on a voluntary basis at least once a week to monitor the virus in its buildings, Fulton says.
“Most of the spread we’re seeing is coming from community interactions or, in course of the contact tracing, we can’t determine where someone came into contact with COVID,” he says. “We have not had very many verifiable transmissions within the school setting.”
In 2021, secondary students will remain remote until late January while elementary school students will continue in-person unless COVID conditions worsen.
“This has been a really a big leadership challenge and an opportunity for superintendents,” Fulton says. “One thing I’ve appreciated is having the ability to connect with and collaborate with other superintendents locally and nationally around how they’re handling this in their communities.”