Thursday, November 5
On Thursday, NKC Schools hosted our gating criteria committee to answer questions and provide information the group felt most necessary to consider as we work towards increasing face-to-face time with secondary students, when safe to do so. It was another great meeting and we certainly appreciate the feedback and perspective this committee has provided us. Some highlights of our findings included:
- 37% of all staff who have been asked to stay home due to being a close contact, positive or probable case have been teachers.
- 93% of the teachers who have been asked to stay at home (positive case or quarantine) have continued to work from home during this time.
- We can still efficiently operate our classrooms and maintain adequate class sizes with approximately 5-10% of core teachers out on quarantine with no substitutes to fill these positions. This figure is dependent on the building size.
- Our substitute fill rate is improving.
In terms of class sizes, if all virtual and face-to-face enrollment stayed the same for the second semester as it is today, the numbers below represent the approximate average class sizes for each secondary school if we provided a four/five day a week face-to-face option. The higher ranges of class size are typically encore classrooms. We would definitely have some encore classes we would need to provide more space for in order to allow for greater physical distancing. With the average class sizes below, most classrooms would be able to follow the Children’s Mercy Hospital guidance of three feet separation. Physical distancing becomes more of a challenge at our northern tier schools, as there are fewer virtual students. If we were to increase face-to-face time, we would want to examine options for larger spaces to accommodate larger class sizes in these schools.
High School Average Class Size
Oak Park: 11-21
Middle School Average Class Size
Our next step includes asking parents to declare their child’s learning option for the second semester. In order to adequately prepare and support our teachers, we are asking that parents make a full semester commitment. Data representing family selections will be available at the end of November. NKC Schools also understands the need for flexibility and a willingness to adjust based on the needs of students and their families. We will continue discussing the most important measures for school closure and opening moving forward.
Tuesday, October 27
On Tuesday, NKC Schools hosted our second gating criteria committee meeting. The multiple perspectives that our committee members bring to these conversations is of great value. This pandemic is impacting our educational community in different ways. It is so important to hear from all stakeholders in making the best and most informed decisions moving forward. Our purpose statement remained the following:
To analyze district and regional data; to hear from local experts; to consider all perspectives and needs as we update decision-making criteria that ensures effective learning environments while mitigating risk for students, staff and families.
As a part of our discussion Tuesday, we focused on the following essential question:
“What available quantitative data sets and current research must be collected and analyzed to best assess the risks and benefits associated with increasing face-to-face contact for secondary students?”
As a result of these conversations, several themes and questions emerged to include:
The State of Substitutes
What percentage of staff can be without subs while still having school operate safely and with meaningful instruction?
What has been the impact of staff quarantining on sub availability and the workforce to support learning?
Do we know the impact of positive cases/exposures to student/staff family members?
How much spread have we seen specific to fall sports?
What is the number of students and staff exposed on campus resulting in a positive test?
What has been the rate of transmission in districts going 5 days a week at the secondary level?
Achievement and Miscellaneous
What is the engagement and achievement level of our secondary students?
If we go five days a week face-to-face, how many virtual-only students would return?
How can we evaluate the daily structure in secondary schools (café, passing periods, common areas, etc.)?
What would our class sizes be if families were asked to declare zero vs. five days in person?
Throughout the next few days, our team will be working to collect data to answer these questions. Findings will be brought back to this committee for our next meeting on November 5 for further exploration.
Thursday, October 15
As local health departments updated their guidance and recommendations, North Kansas City Schools had need to do the same. A committee with representatives from all stakeholder groups (parents, students, teachers, staff, community and the Board of Education) came together to study more sophisticated and current information and revise our original decision-making criteria.
The group’s first meeting occurred Thursday. After a welcome and introductions from Dr. Clemens, Dr. Perry Hilvitz presented data pertaining to cases and spread, contrasting rates in our community versus schools. While large numbers were being asked to stay home when potentially exposed, the rate of transmission in our schools is low, as compared with that of the community. To date, there have been four sites completely unaffected by a singular case of COVID. Others experienced a case or cases initially, with many no longer active. Data detailing cases per school was also shared. The group also heard from an expert with Tri-County Mental Health who discussed the impact of school closures and the pandemic on families within our community. Preliminary results of a recent survey showed lessened connection between students and teachers, noted by both parties. Participants studied the recently updated guidance of the Clay County Health Department.
After processing all information presented, committee members began to share what value they saw in applying gating criteria to classrooms, then schools, as opposed to the entire district of 21,000 students and 3,600 employees. The committee was in support of making scenario-based decisions (especially as they relate to transitioning to full virtual instruction) on a school-by-school basis. With a decision-making process such as this, NKC Schools would not universally shut down the entire school district based on community transmission rates. Rather, decisions would be based on the actual number of cases active within an individual building in addition to other criteria developed by the Clay County Health Department and the committee (see their initial thinking below).
This advisory committee’s next meeting is scheduled for October 27. At that time, further discussion will occur to finalize a recommendation for site-based gating criteria. We will also review finalized survey results from students, teachers and staff members to shed light on satisfaction rates with our learning model. The committee also asked that we explore the possibility of allowing secondary students with greater need to attend five days a week, and wanted to have further discussion around potentially increasing student face-to-face attendance days at the secondary level. Expect further updates as to the progress of this group in each newsletter directly following their meetings.
Clay County Health Department Considerations For Closing A School
- Evidence of intra-school transmission of COVID-19 that cannot be curtailed by single or multiple classroom closure
- The rates of positive students and staff exceeds the rate of positive cases in the community
- Inability to provide in-person instruction due to ill or exposed teachers
- Inability to provide appropriate cleaning and custodial services due to ill or exposed custodial staff
- Shelter at home order as deemed by public officials
Additional Input from the Committee
- Time to transition between learning scenarios must be considered for families to adjust
- Need for real time data
- Potential for signed waiver by parent if schools are open five days a week
- Need for clear communication as different sites would be operating on unique schedules
- Need for transparency and context so that everyone knows what caused a school closure