Mayor: city recommends delaying school start

School may be delayed in Kansas City following an announcement by Mayor Quinton Lucas on Tuesday.

Lucas said COVID-19 trends are concerning. Last week, Kansas City saw its highest rate of new infection, highest number of deaths, and an increase in hospitalizations.

“We have no interest in seeing schools delayed significantly, we have no interest in seeing educational opportunities for our children limited,” Lucas said, prefacing the city’s reccomendations.

The first recommendation is that schools start after Labor Day, Tues., Sept. 8, following suit with the executive order in Kansas.

Lucas said the risk of infection increases by age, which should be considered when planning the return to school facilities. While virtual learning and social distancing should be implemented in higher grades, classrooms for younger children may look closer to normal.

“We are asking all of our county partners – that would be Platte County, Jackson County, Cass County, and fortunately our friends in Clay County have already provided funding – we’re asking our county partners to provide further funding to their schools to further facilitate their reopening,” Lucas said.

There is no broad plan to close school buildings if it can be avoided, Lucas said. If there is a localized spread, it will be handled by classroom or building first.

Youth sports tournaments have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in the state, and Lucas recommended large tournaments or youth activities to postpone events or cut down on size until Labor Day. He added that schools should plan events outdoors when possible, including sports practices.

Health Department Director Dr. Rex Archer said he initially did not support closing schools in the spring, but the stay at home order made a huge difference.

“Over the last 10 days of this month versus the first 10 days of this month, we’ve seen a substantial increase in folks under 19 having this disease, and that’s the big concern,” Archer said.

Archer said every school district needs to prepare to have virtual capacity for students because there is potential for individuals, classrooms or buildings to be quarantined.

Lucas said contact tracing and testing will be crucial if a student or teacher tests positive. The Health Department is currently hiring additional staff.

Two pieces of hope are compliance with the mask mandate and the trend of adults spreading to children, not from children to adults or between children, Archer said.

Lucas recognizes how challenging this moment is for working parents or those with other obligations. Lucas noted that under the current executive order, day care facilities are allowed to operate.

Lucas asked Kansas City employers to continue to be understanding and allow greater family medical leave or work from home opportunities.

“Teachers and staff have families themselves, they have families sometimes at risk, and it’s all we can do to make sure they stay safe,” Lucas said. “I think this is a step that allows us to do so.”

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