Danger Disagreement

Protesting against school board decisions proves futile, since past issues haven’t easily been resolved

Arguments against SMSD school board decisions are made in vain, as coronavirus cases continue to be worrisome to health officials.

At the board meeting held on Aug. 24, parents of devastated students and student-athletes argued for the board to reconsider their decision to move classes online and cancel fall sports.

In particular, parent Rusty Mudgett made a case for the athletes, who supported from outside of the building. Mudgett addressed the board, arguing that athletes should be able to continue play, but was cut off after three minutes (the allowed time period) and before he finished his speech. He was visibly frustrated as he sat back down.

“Please reconsider or modify the use of current gating criteria,” Mudgett said. “This criteria was originally intended to be used by hospitals to estimate potential demands for their resources, not for deciding if kids can go to school and play sports. If the current gating criteria remains in effect for Shawnee Mission, we will never achieve the less than five percent positive tests required to play.”

Frustration seems to be a theme among athletes and the parents who represent them – but as they continue to protest, their pleas are not likely to change the decision made by the school board.

Earlier this month, the school board decided to start middle and high school classes completely online on Sept. 8. This is the date students were originally supposed to return to the building for in-person learning. In addition, the board banned all fall sports for the time being. 

The SMSD reopening plan is based on the Johnson County school reopening gating criteria. Since Johnson County will be in the ‘red zone’ on Sept. 8, only remote learning is authorized. Sports follow the same criteria – in the ‘red zone,’ team practice and games are not permitted. The documented plan for reopening SMSD high school states that “the Reopening School Plan guides staff in developing building-wide systems and procedures that are in alignment with recommended health and safety protocols.” The district promises continued support for students.

Still, for parents who continue to protest, the district’s plan and reassurances are not enough. This presents a separate challenge for the school board, which is already scrambling to find a solution for schooling during the pandemic. 

“This is a difficult time in America,” superintendent Dr. Mike Fulton said. “We all want to have what we’re used to, what’s normal in our lives. The faster that we can return to that, the better. Our challenge is trying to do that in a way that keeps students and staff, families and communities safe.”

The district is facing immense pressure from parents, many of whom think that online schooling is not adequate for their children. Following last semester’s online learning situation, in which students were not required to attend classes, there seems to be little hope for the success of remote classes.Telling students that their grades would not suffer and could only improve was supposed to ease fears, but in reality allowed students to ease themselves out of their classes. There are also concerns about the mental and emotional health of the developing teens, especially with the cancellation of sports. 

Despite the stream of concerns, it seems that the decision made to close down all activities will prevail. Moving forward, we can only hope that decisions made by the board will be in response to advice from health professionals.

Students must remember that, in order for our school to safely open, COVID-19 cases in Johnson County must be declining. The number of positive cases must be below 10 percent. Whether anybody likes it or not, the protocol for SMSD reopening is science-based and, so far, unwavering. The board may listen to speeches advocating for the return of in-person learning, and see rallies of student-athletes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will change their course. 

In the meantime, preventative measures can, and should, always be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. Follow recommended guidelines, such as wearing a mask in public and when social distancing isn’t possible. Try to avoid situations in which staying six feet away from others isn’t an option. All you can do is do your part in stopping the virus, so everything can be normal sooner.