KHS to return full-day, many questions still unanswered


Coco LeGrand

KHS will return to full-day in-person learning March 15, with elements of the plan still in development.

KHS will return to a full-day in-person learning schedule Monday, March 15, the first day of fourth quarter. For much of the year, the largest obstacle regarding the return to full-day in-person learning was lunch and homeroom. Solutions to these obstacles are still being developed. 

Dr. Michael Havener, KHS principal, confirmed multiple measures will be put in place during lunchtime, including assigned seating and the option for both juniors and seniors to leave campus, the latter being a policy already put in place before the pandemic to prevent lunch overcrowding. How homeroom will be utilized is still unknown. 

Teachers have expressed increased concern regarding other issues, such as virtual learning equity for students of color, teacher vaccinations, lunch supervision and space, lack of connection with virtual students, teacher/administration communication, the full-day return decision’s connection to upcoming zero tax-rate change bond issue Prop R and the basic issue of eating at school. These concerns were brought up in an all-staff Zoom with Dr. David Ulrich, KSD superintendent, with varied responses from himself and Dr. Matt Bailey, assistant superintendent for data, intervention and supports. 

The next step in this process is to begin collecting survey responses from parents regarding their child’s return, either in-person or virtually. Parents have until the end of the week, Friday, Feb. 26 at 3 p.m., to notify administration if their student will be learning virtually or in-person. Havener also said upperclassmen will be given a survey to notify the school whether they plan to eat on campus or leave, a one-time decision for the rest of the year. From those responses, the administration will assign lunch students on-campus to a seating chart in order to help with contact tracing. It is still unknown as to how students will be divided into these seating charts and how outdoor seating plays into this time. 

Havener said the cafeteria, commons and, if necessary, library, will be used for lunch spaces. Students will be separated by the same plexiglass dividers that were in classrooms before the district purchased new, frameless dividers. In the cafeteria, there will be four students per table; in the commons, two students per table; and in the library, the number of students will depend on location. Study blocks and IPs will be moved to classrooms, although it is still unknown how students will be divided. Havener said he will have a better idea of what lunch will look like when students declare whether they will stay or leave during lunchtime. He also said he will have more information on how homeroom will function once he receives parent survey responses. 

At the Feb. 22 KSD Board of Education meeting, Ulrich updated the BOE on the plan to return to full-day learning. The Board did not vote on this change, unlike the decision to pivot to hybrid learning in late October 2020. TKC either did not get a response from or was declined by three individuals within the KSD administration and BOE that would know why a vote was not needed to move forward. Ulrich deferred to Havener on subjects of scheduling, and has not responded to TKC’s subsequent attempts to interview about other topics of the full-day return. Chad Kavanaugh, BOE president, said he could comment only after Ulrich gave a statement. Ginger Cayce, chief communications officer, again deferred to Havener and has also not returned TKC’s subsequent interview requests. 

In his update to the BOE, Ulrich explained the plans as well as the decision-making process itself. Each school’s principal is responsible for making all logistical decisions regarding the full-day return, which includes almost daily meetings both between KSD principals, principals and departments, and other administration personnel. 

During the BOE meeting, Ulrich also said based on four months of internal data, COVID-19 transmission within schools is minimal, and the current daily cases for St. Louis County is the lowest since July. According to the County website, the rolling 7-day average of COVID-19 cases has steadily decreased since mid-January, with data comparable to summer and early fall averages. However, beginning around the same time, the state of Missouri stopped including the results of antigen tests in its data. These tests are also known as “rapids” and now make up around 30% of COVID-19 tests administered. The data from the St. Louis County website is directly from the Missouri Department of Health. 

Another source KSD referenced data from during an all-staff meeting with Ulrich was CovidActNow, a research nonprofit. This organization’s data comes from the CDC’s COVID-19 tracker, which also does not include antigen tests. According to the KSD COVID-19 dashboard, which uses St. Louis County data, the test positivity rate is currently around 6-8%, and the transmission rate since early February has remained below the threshold target of 1. 

Before students return full-day, Friday, March 12  will be a “pause day” to aid teachers and administrators in the transition. North Kirkwood and Nipher middle schools also plan to have a pause day on the 12th and a return on the 15th. Havener said the schedule will return to an 88-minute class block schedule with the same order of classes: odd periods on Mondays and Wednesdays, even periods — along with homeroom — on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Fridays will be staying virtual, with all seven classes meeting. As TKC learns more on these topics, further information will be released.