Nov. 12, 2020
Ray-Pec Parent Community,

As you may know, the greater Kansas City region, and now Cass County in particular, has experienced a rapid increase in the number of recent positive COVID-19 cases. This past week in Ray-Pec, we have had to go to full virtual instruction at an elementary school, and are facing challenges when trying to cover staff absences in all of our schools. While we have not seen significant COVID-19 transmissions within our schools, the numbers of staff and students in quarantines and isolations, primarily from outside school exposures, is becoming an increasingly large challenge for the school district. I want you to know about the following points.

Our critical component is the availability of staff

Going into this school year, it was apparent that one of the most challenging parts of in-person learning was going to be the daily availability of our teachers, support team members, and other certified personnel. With the recent uptick in isolations and quarantines, many staff members have had to miss in-person learning for periods of up to 14 days. This is causing a significant hurdle for the district. In a non-covid year, school districts struggle with the availability of substitute teachers at peak times throughout the winter months. The pandemic has reduced the available pool of substitute teachers. This has led us to find new and creative ways to cover our classrooms, including using administrative personnel as substitute teachers. We are exhausting every possible option to meet our staffing challenges.

We have contingency plans in place

Since the onset of this pandemic, we have prepared a variety of contingency plans to be able to respond to whatever situation in which we find ourselves. One of those contingencies was the hybrid A/B schedule for our secondary students. Another was the development of the ViPR program to give parents and students a choice for virtual instruction. The others that we have developed in response to lack-of-staffing issues or suspected virus transmission include periodic transition to short term distance learning in classrooms or schools, or full distance learning for all students. 

Please be prepared for classroom, school, or district closures

As we have witnessed this week, there exists a very real potential for classroom, school or district closures, and subsequent transition to distance learning. Please think about and prepare a personal contingency plan for childcare should a classroom, school or district closure become necessary. 

Adhere to best practices

Adherence to best practices continues to be the most effective way to combat the spread of the virus. Physical distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands frequently, staying home if you have symptoms of COVID-19, and following isolation or quarantine directions from the CCHD are commitments we need to continue to make. Very importantly, if your child is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please keep her or him home from school. Keeping students at home when any COVID-19 symptom is present has proven to be a very effective mitigation strategy for us. 

Information from earlier today

To add to our decision discussions, earlier today Governor Parson announced modifications to state guidelines for Missouri schools during COVID-19. Under the updated guidance, proper mask-wearing may prevent students and staff from being in quarantine situations. The Ray-Pec administration and Board of Education is reviewing this information and working with the Cass County Health Department (CCHD) to better understand these new guidelines, and what it might mean for how we approach the rest of the school year. We will have more information about this soon.

Better days are coming, though it may not always feel like it

I wrote in an email to you in August that this was going to be a challenging school year. No parent, guardian, care-giver, student, teacher, support team member, Board member, administrator, nor anyone else in our community ever wanted to experience a global pandemic. Everyone is being asked to make sacrifices and choices that in a normal year we do not have to make. Our in-person and ViPR teacher time, along with our support staff time, to accomplish the many things that are needed to provide an education experience to our students during a pandemic is running very thin. However, our current reality is not likely to change any time soon, especially as we approach the winter months. How we face that reality, and the mindset we carry, will determine how well we come out of this on the other side. And we will come out of this. Better days are coming. To do so successfully, we must continue to grant patience and grace to one another, as we are all trying to do our very best at navigating our current challenges and realities. The Ray-Pec Board of Education and I thank you for that consideration.

Thank you for entrusting your children to the Ray-Pec School District.

Mike Slagle

I am passionately driven by the belief that Everyone Is Created To Flourish