Education | KCUR

Education

KCUR 89.3 covers education issues across the Kansas City region and in Kansas and Missouri. 

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Like parents around the country, Michelle Haffer never imagined having to become her child’s full-time teacher. But Haffer’s daughter is out of school and mostly stuck in the house.

And her daughter, Maddy, isn’t loving it.

“Well, she’s been struggling. It’s mostly the social distancing, in that nothing is open,” Haffer said.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Missouri has postponed April municipal elections until June, a decision that could have a long-term impact on metro school districts asking voters to approve bonds for construction projects.

North Kansas City Schools, the state’s third largest school district, needs to replace two elementary schools, build an early childhood center and add on to Staley High School. There’s also a backlog of deferred maintenance at the district’s oldest school buildings. 

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

At least six female athletes at the University of Kansas reported they experienced unwanted touching from a massage therapist who was recently charged with a child sex crime, the school said Tuesday. 

Investigators also discovered that an athletic trainer knew of “unwarranted and unwanted touching” by Shawn O’Brien, but the school said in an email to staff and students that the trainer did not “appropriately report the conduct, as it is required by the university.”

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

LAWRENCE, Kansas — With public and private school buildings closed until August, education officials want students to limit their screen time and spend less than three hours a day learning.

A report released Thursday directs districts to spend five days assessing students’ technology needs, building lesson plans and telling parents what to expect. Districts are required to submit a plan to the state for doing so by early April.

Ray Weikal / Kansas City Public Schools

With schools around the metro closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, food service directors in Kansas and Missouri have taken on a daunting logistical challenge: how to feed hungry kids until it’s safe for them to go back to class.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday ordered all of the state’s schools closed for the remainder of the academic year, taking her most dramatic action yet to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Kansas.

The governor’s decision came while all the state’s schools were shut down either for spring break or to slow the spread of the new coronavirus — some under orders from county health departments. In particular, the largest school systems in Kansas had either moved to online instruction or stretched out those spring breaks.

Feliphe Schiarolli
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Updated, 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 17

Gov. Laura Kelly has closed every school in Kansas for the remainder of the school year in an effort to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We understand that canceling classes and moving to a continuous learning platform cannot replicate” what happens in Kansas schools, Kelly said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

A day earlier, most Kansas City area school districts announced they would close until at least April 5.

Feliphe Schiarolli
Unsplash

Not sure how to talk to your kids about the novel coronavirus?

You’re not alone, says Christina Low Kapalu, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy. “It comes up with a lot of things that we’ve encountered, like mass shootings and terrorism events. Anytime there’s a big media event that causes a lot of worry, parents ask about how they can talk to their kids in developmentally appropriate ways.”

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

Educators who’ve taught in Lee’s Summit for a long time are frustrated that repeated salary freezes mean they’re making less than colleagues who are new to the district. 

Jessica Hill, a Lee’s Summit West history teacher, says she makes $3,500 less than her husband, also a teacher in the district, even though they both have master’s degrees and nine years of experience.

Photo illustration by Elle Moxley

After several tumultuous years during which the school district’s first black superintendent abruptly resigned, Lee’s Summit voters will again be electing new school board members this April. 

WICHITA, Kansas — The good news for Kansas public colleges: 1,000 more Latino students will be enrolled a decade from now, enough to fill the seats left empty by fewer white students.

The bad news? The state predicts fewer students will earn a degree or certification in 2029, judging by Kansas’ poor track record in graduating Latino students.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Shawnee Mission School District has reached an agreement with the teachers union to move all teachers to the same contract for the current school year.

The agreement was reached Thursday and came after a bitter, months-long dispute over teacher pay and workload that ended with the state stepping in.

Nomin Ujiyediin / Kansas News Service

The University of Kansas said Thursday that it’s “deeply troubled” by an internal investigation into a massage therapist who was recently charged with sexually assaulting a child, and had worked with some women’s sports teams since 2015. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

A bitter contract dispute has driven a wedge between the Shawnee Mission teachers’ union and some of the school board members the union has helped get elected in recent years.

After the Kansas Department of Labor intervened last month, tossing out the final two years of a three-year contract the school board approved over the union’s objections, the two sides are trying to come together to negotiate a contract for next school year.

Courtesy of Belton School District

Kansas and Missouri are at low risk for the coronavirus, but schools in the Kansas City metro are having “robust conversations” about how to protect students in case an outbreak occurs in the U.S. 

Their solutions include teleschool, a way to disinfect a whole classroom at a time and the old standby: If you’re sick, stay home.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The Kansas Department of Labor has sided with the teachers union in an ongoing contract dispute with the Shawnee Mission School District.

The Department of Labor found that the district committed a “prohibited labor practice” when it imposed a three-year unilateral contract on teachers late last month.

The labor board’s ruling came just minutes before a 4 p.m. deadline for teachers to sign that contract. Only one teacher had tendered her resignation as of mid-afternoon Friday, according to a district spokesman. Most teachers had already signed the three-year contract.

Hickman Mills C-1 Schools

Updated, 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 11: Hickman Mills Superintendent Yolanda Cargile is leaving her post to take the top job in the neighboring Center School District. 

Cargile announced her resignation in a letter sent to Hickman Mills parents last week.

WICHITA, Kansas — Faculty at state colleges in Kansas find themselves armed with fresh ammunition in their ongoing plea for more pay.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

The fourth grader in Amanda Whiting’s chair had never been to the dentist, so she was a little nervous to be seen at the clinic at her school, J.A. Rogers Elementary.

“We don't use scary terms when we are treating a kiddo,” said Whiting, the dental director at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, which runs the clinic for Kansas City Public Schools.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Hundreds of students at Shawnee Mission East High School walked out of school Friday to show support for teachers after the school board imposed a three-year, unilateral contract on Thursday.

Teachers began the school year without a contract, and negotiations have been at an impasse for months. A five-hour bargaining session on Tuesday ended with a lawyer representing the school district walking away from the table.

Elle Moxley / KCUR

Kansas schools had 800 vacant positions last year, and the lack of certified teachers has some districts trying to get people who want to change careers into the classroom.

Breanna Lovett got her bachelor’s degree in forensic biology, but she didn’t love working overnight in a lab. So when she learned the Kansas City, Kansas, Public, Schools had a fellowship program that would let her teach while she earned a master’s degree, she decided to apply.

After six weeks of training, she was in her own classroom at Washington High School.

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools

Updated, 3:51 p.m. Tuesday – The Lee’s Summit school board has hired a new superintendent, David Buck.

Buck has served as superintendent for the Wright City schools, a tiny district about 40 miles west of St. Louis, since 2015. He’ll start in Lee’s Summit on July 1.

Dennis Carpenter, the district’s first black superintendent, resigned in July amid ongoing tension over diversity training for teachers and staff.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Negotiators for the Shawnee Mission School District and the teachers union are at an impasse and will now present their cases to a neutral party.

On one side are teachers who feel overworked and underpaid. On the other side are school administrators who say the union’s demands will ultimately put the district in the red. It’s a dispute with deep roots in the Great Recession and all the years Kansas seriously underfunded schools, happening amidst a national conversation on teacher pay.

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The Shawnee Mission School District and four district officials have  agreed to pay $165,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging school officials failed to take action against a middle school student accused of sexually assaulting another student.

The district and officials agreed to the settlement in September but the amount was not disclosed until Monday, when U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree approved the settlement.

Elle Moxley / 89.3

The KCUR news staff presents the State of Kansas City series as a look ahead to 2020 on topics of importance to the region. Find the State of Kansas City report on other topics in the series as they are published each weekday, Jan. 6–Jan. 20. Follow coverage on these topics at KCUR.org and on 89.3 FM throughout the year.

Kansas City’s complex racial history is still defining how kids are educated in 2020. That includes factors far outside of classrooms, where housing instability, violence in communities and childhood trauma all have profound effects on schools and students.

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

Earlier this year Kansas City voters rejected a plan to improve pre-K access and quality with public dollars, but that hasn't stopped a child care center at 59th Street and Swope Parkway from trying to get better on its own.

The Upper Room, an education equity non-profit, has run a licensed child care center for about 15 years but only recently began to pursue state accreditation as an early learning center.

Courtesy Victoria Hammond

States can get a substantial return on investment if they help single mothers in college access child care, support services and financial aid, according to a new study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

But even though about 10% of all undergraduates in Kansas and Missouri are single mothers, neither state makes significant investments in helping them persist to graduation. 

Elle Moxley / KCUR 89.3

School’s out for winter break, and Kansas City Public Schools fourth grader Miranda Hernandez can’t wait to have arroz con leche with her family on Christmas.

“It’s rice with milk,” she explained. “We have it every time when it’s cold, like in winter.”

Sharing food with friends and family is an important part of Miranda’s culture, which is why she likes the new mural at Carver Dual Language School so much. 

Waiel Turner, 20, was not planning on going to college. He thought about entering the U.S. Air Force or becoming a police officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. 

Enrolling at Harris-Stowe State University was strictly happenstance.

In 2017, he accompanied a friend to the campus in midtown St. Louis where she was registering for classes. An admissions counselor told Turner he should enroll. Two days later, Turner became a college student. 

Turner said it is the family environment that makes Harris-Stowe home for him. Like many historically black colleges and universities, Harris-Stowe is struggling to keep its tight-knit family of students and staff together in the face of shaky finances and relative lack of state resources. 

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