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Jackson County Health Officials Recommend Delaying School Because So Many People Are Testing Positive For Coronavirus

Lee's Summit R-7 School District
Lee's Summit held summer school in person last month, but Superintendent David Buck has told the school board to be prepared if the school year has to start virtually. On Friday, the health department released that recommendation for districts in eastern Jackson County not already following the Kansas City Health Department's guidance for delaying the first day of school.

Jackson County's numbers are headed in the wrong direction for in-person learning, even in school districts not planning to go back until after Labor Day.

The Jackson County Health Department is recommending districts push back the start of the school year and begin virtually after Sept. 8, which could prevent several districts from opening face-to-face as planned.

“In Eastern Jackson County, the week over week case counts, percent positive and daily hospitalizations are all increasing,” the health department tweeted late Friday. “We are not comfortable making the recommendation to send students back to school during a period of significant uncontrolled community transmission.”

The recommendation could push back the first day of school in Belton, Center, Hickman Mills and Independence, districts that did not amend their calendars when the Kansas City Health Department asked schools to open after Labor Day.

It could also scrap plans for in-person learning in districts still planning to bring students back next month.

Health officials communicated their recommendations to school administrators before the general public. Lee’s Summit Superintendent David Buck told the school board Thursday to expect a remote start to the school based on current trends. He said he expected a final recommendation for the first day of school around Aug. 25.

The Jackson County Health Department said schools should delay opening even if they’re planning to start the school year virtually.

“This gives school administrators and teachers time to transition academic planning to a remote learning format,” the health department said on Twitter Friday.

It’s becoming less and less likely that schools anywhere will be able to open for in-person learning next month. In Eastern Jackson County, nearly 16% of people tested in the last two weeks tested positive.

Across the state line in Kansas, Johnson County’s 14-day average is 9.9%. If the 14-day average is more than 10%, health officials are recommending virtual learning for students in middle and high school.

“There are no good answers,” Johnson County epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh tweeted at KCUR this week. “Unfortunately, our country didn’t do the things necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 and now we have to make the best decision possible regarding schools out of the not so great options.”

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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