SMITHVILLE — While how the upcoming school year will be structured has mostly been up in the air the last few months, as the first day of classes on Tuesday, Sept. 8 approaches, many plans are coming to ground in Smithville School District.
As the spread of coronavirus has forced administration to think in new and creative ways, district leaders said this school year will look different than those in the past.
Middle & high school
Reentry plans that include face-to-face learning and a virtual option were created with input from families, teachers and other resources such as Clay County Public Health Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For face-to-face learning, all students and staff are required to wear masks. For those at the middle and high school levels, in-class learning will be minimized through a hybrid approach. Students will be in class physically two days per week with virtual learning occurring the remaining three days per school week.
“One way the virtual option is different from the spring is structure,” Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services Michelle Kratofil said, noting the difference in how virtual learning will take place this school year. “We are trying to provide as much of a normal schedule as we can.”
When doing virtual learning, Kratofil said students will access course material at certain times during the day and regular grades will recorded.
When learning face to face, to limit physical interactions, students will be divided into two groups by last name with half attending classes on Monday and Tuesday and the other half attending classes Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, instruction will be done virtually for all to provide time for extra cleaning in school buildings.
“We typically put them in a block schedule so they have four classes a day,” Kratofil said. “Because of (the hybrid approach), we’re only going to see them twice a week face to face so they’ll actually have all eight classes on the days that they are here. That way, they can get instruction then have work to do on the days that they’re home.”
Students will be grouped in cohorts for core classes including social studies, English/language arts, math and science.
While having classes in person benefits students in various ways, it also makes things a bit tricky when district leaders are trying to mitigate virus spread, said Kratofil. As a result, students in choir may be required to sing in straight lines rather than curved rows, and the outdoors may be utilized for things like band so students can practice while also being socially distant.
Students in real-world learning opportunities like Northland CAPS and KC Tech Academy will be allowed to continue those options, but will be required to follow safety precautions implemented by those programs.
For elementary level students, those who opt for in-person learning will attend classes all five days of the school week and remain in cohorts. This means they will be around the same small group of students for all classes in an effort to limit contact with others.
For special classes like art, teachers will move from room to room rather than the students. Supplies will not be shared.
Those learning virtually will do so in similar fashion to those in upper-grade levels. Each building has assigned substitutes for online coursework who likely will only be doing that form of teaching.
To assist those learning virtually, SSD has been able to provide electronic equipment for all students as well as internet connectivity to those who need it.
Students in elementary levels are offered the option to revert from virtual learning to in-person learning quarterly, while those in upper levels have to remain in that mode of education for the semester in an effort to keep credits intact.
Meal times will likely be staggered as well to limit physical interaction in attempt to mitigate virus spread in school buildings, Kratofil added.
Additionally, there will be an option for students learning virtually to access meals from the district. Families can contact their school for direction on how to get on that list.