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COVID-19 Decision-Making Criteria Update

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 Others experienced a case or cases initially, with many no longer active.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.

photo of committee
photo of committee
photo of committee

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